Wheelchair-users can more easily see the stars thanks to a cash boost.
For the past four months, Sunderland Astronomical Society (SAS) has been building a specially-adapted mount for a new telescope, which will make stargazing more accessible for people in wheelchairs.
Thanks to a £500 grant from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, the project’s been completed.
Originally formed in 1993, SAS operates a public observatory at the Washington Wetlands Centre, which caters for all levels of astronomy interest and experience.
The new telescope will be linked to a projector display screen inside the Wetlands Centre to enable even more people to see what’s being viewed through it.
Paul Meade, vice-chairman of Sunderland Astronomical Society, and also a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, says: “Because telescopes have to be mounted and set up in a certain way, and can’t then easily be moved, it can be difficult for people in wheelchairs to reach the eyepiece and see everything that’s observable through the lens.
“We’d identified the potential interest from wheelchair-using astronomy enthusiasts for getting more involved with our activities, and had started to put our plans for the new telescope and mount in place to address this.
“As a self-funding organisation, it can be a challenge for us to make capital purchases like this, so to get support from Newcastle Building Society to finish the project off, is brilliant.
“We’re now looking to work with local wheelchair user groups and charities to ensure they know what’s available at the observatory, and know that the new telescope will be very well used.”
David Pearson, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Sunderland branch, added: “As a mutual organisation, we’re keen to support the communities in which we work as much as we can.
“The members of SAS are extremely active in sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge about the night sky across many different parts of the community.”