They recently opened a planetarium which Martin describes as an ‘impressive plan B’ to stargazing. ‘Whenever people come up and can’t see the real night sky, we’re able to simulate it for them from there,’ he explains. ‘It’s been a bit of a lockdown project. I’ve always wanted to build one and it was suggested that we convert the main barn on the farm (because it’s no longer a working farm). It’s been done in our spare time and thankfully we had a few sources of funding which have been really helpful. Bit by bit we’ve built an immersive planetarium and those that have visited have been impressed by it.
When stargazing conditions aren’t the best, novice astronomers can retreat to the planetarium to gain a better appreciation of the night sky. ‘Sometimes when you’re looking outside the solar system through a telescope without taking photos, a lot of the objects you’re seeing are just grey smudges,’ says Martin. ‘That smudge might be a galaxy or a nebula but the planetarium means we’re able to take a closer look at those smudges and find out exactly what they are. It adds another level to what you’re actually seeing, so there’s much more of a sense of wonder. It really does help to illustrate things.’
The return of the Dark Skies Fringe Festival is something Martin is pleased about, and he says you shouldn’t miss this chance to get involved in the wide range of events. ‘Anything that gets the public out under dark skies and doing astronomy can only be a good thing,’ he adds. ‘So any event is a good event. In general, there is a public thirst for knowledge for all things astronomy. Brian Cox might have something to do with that; he’s been a very good populariser over the last few years.’