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Winter Viewing Season begins soon at Coats Observatory

Paisley observatory

Winter Viewing Season begins soon at Coats Observatory.

The changing of the clocks at the end of October may signal darker days and the onset of winter – but what better way to brighten up these dark winter nights than to view the wonders of the night sky.

Coats Observatory will once again open its doors on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to allow visitors the rare chance to see a wide variety of celestial delights through powerful telescopes.

Paisley observatory

Opened on 1 October 1883, Coats Observatory celebrates its 130th anniversary this year and continues to welcome anyone interested in astronomy, from absolute beginner to knowledgeable expert.

During the viewing evenings observatory staff shall train the telescope on the Moon, the planets and any other interesting objects visible in the skies above Paisley. There will also be telescopes set up in the Observatory garden trained on various points of interest for visitors who don’t wish to climb the stairs to the dome. Observatory staff will be on hand to answer any astronomically-related questions anyone may have.

This year, right at the start of winter viewing season, there may be the chance to spot the planet Venus, which will be low in the sky in the west about an hour after the sun sets. Venus is covered in thick clouds and shines very brightly in the sky – it is in fact the source of many reports of UFOs!

By mid November Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System, will start to rise by 8pm. This gas giant is a fantastic sight through the telescope, revealing gas bands which encircle the planet’s atmosphere, its four brightest moons and even the Great Red Spot, a gigantic storm three times the size of the Earth.

Late November will also see the appearance of a very bright comet. Comet Ison, only discovered in September 2012, will pass very close to the Sun on November 28. If it emerges intact from its journey past our nearest star it should have brightened up enormously – it has been predicted that it might even be visible in daylight! Hopefully Comet Ison will be one of the highlights of the astronomical year.

Winter viewing nights at Coats Observatory will run every Tuesday and Thursday from 29 Oct 2013 to 27 March 2014 from 6.30pm – 9pm. Winter viewing is FREE and there is no need to book, last admission is 8.45pm.

For the duration of the winter viewing season the Observatory will also run a pre-viewing Planetarium Show every Thursday evening from 6pm – 6.30pm. The Planetarium show gives a virtual guided tour of the night sky from the comfort of your chair. Admission to the Planetarium show is free, but spaces are limited. Please call Paisley Museum on 0300 300 1210 to book a place in advance.

Visitors should note that winter viewing nights can only go ahead in good weather and will not run in the event of overcast skies or high winds. In the event of inclement weather Coats Observatory will operate Planetarium shows, talks and guided tours of the building.

For further information on Renfrewshire Arts & Museums’ events log on to www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/events or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/renfrewshirearts or Twitter @RenArtsMuseums.