Coats Observatory

On Friday 20 March, an incredibly rare Solar Eclipse will occur across Northern Europe and the Arctic – and Coats Observatory will mark this amazing celestial phenomenon with a free event for local people keen to see it.

A Solar Eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, temporarily blocking out all or part of our view of the Sun. On 20 March the Eclipse will begin at approximately 8.30am and end at 10.45am, peaking around 9.30am. Above Paisley, the Moon will cover just over 90% of the Sun and it will become noticeably darker for a short while – more like twilight than full night.

Coats Observatory

At Coats Observatory there will be four telescopes dedicated to watching the eclipse, plus there will be special eclipse glasses available, allowing visitors to safely view this rare astronomical event as it unfolds. Staff from Coats Observatory will also be on hand to answer any eclipse questions visitors may have.

The Eclipse event will run 8.30am – 10.45am at Coats Observatory and admission is free.

In the event of clouds or inclement weather, we will run a ‘virtual eclipse’ in the Planetarium at Coats Observatory and have a live internet feed broadcasting the Eclipse from the path of totality, which makes landfall over the Faroe Islands and the Norwegian archipelago, Svalbard.

Watch safely from where you are

The Eclipse can be safely viewed without the need of specialist equipment. A very basic pinhole projector can be made by taking two pieces of card, piercing a small round hole with a drawing pin in one and letting the light from the Sun pass through this and fall on to the second piece of card, which acts like a screen. The further away the second card is the larger the image.

Please remember that the Sun’s rays are incredibly powerful. Never look at the Sun through unfiltered binoculars, telescope or even with the naked eye as permanent damage will be done to your eyes in a short period of time.

In the run up to the Solar Eclipse event

Dedicated Solar Viewing Sessions will take place at Coats Observatory on Tuesday 17, Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 March, 2pm – 4pm, where you can make your own safe solar viewer in preparation for Friday’s eclipse. Admission to these sessions is free.

Access to Coats Observatory on Friday 20 March is via Oakshaw Street West, Paisley, PA1 2DE and the Observatory will be open from 8.30am.

Access to Coats Observatory for the Solar Viewing Sessions in the lead up to Eclipse Day will be via Paisley Museum, High St, Paisley, PA1 2BA.

Coats Observatory

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£100,000 plus investment for Coats Observatory

Renfrewshire Council is investing over £100,000 on a repair and maintenance programme at Coats Observatory in Paisley.

The work is the latest phase of the council’s programme to sustain and develop Renfrewshire’s heritage to support economic regeneration in the area.

Coats Observatory

The Observatory will close from Monday June 9th to allow for repairs and maintenance work which is set to take up to 12 weeks.

Council chiefs have scheduled the work during the summer months to ensure that the Observatory is fully back up and running for the popular winter programme of events and viewings.

Councillor Jim Harte, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Sport, Leisure and Culture Policy Board, said: “Coats Observatory has a special place in the affections of people in Paisley, and indeed Renfrewshire as a whole.

“For generations of local people and visitors, it has provided a platform to develop an interest in astronomy in an informative and entertaining way.

“We are dealing with a building which opened in 1883 and is the oldest public observatory in Scotland. The council wants to preserve its unique appeal.

“Renfrewshire Council is bringing forward major plans to develop tourism and boost regeneration through capitalising on the area’s unique architectural and cultural heritage.

“The programme is scheduled to cost £112,000 although further repairs may be identified as the work progresses.

“We apologise for any inconvenience but the coming months are the best time to get the work done.”

The maintenance programme will cover repairs to the roof, lead guttering, and the dome and viewing platform of the Observatory.

There will also be some internal works to doors, and minor building and plaster repairs where areas have been affected by water or dampness.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator icon=”star”][vc_column_text]Courtesy of Renfrewshire Council.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator icon=”star”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Paisley Museum

Paisley excellent for tourists says Visit Scotland.

The Paisley Museum and the Coats Observatory have been named as four star visitor attractions which offer tourists an excellent standard of welcome, hospitality and service.

The award follows a series of secret inspections by mystery shoppers from Visit Scotland, the national tourism organisation.

Paisley Museum

The grading system focuses on the standard of the welcome, hospitality and service attractions provide. The Renfrewshire Council attractions were awarded three stars in 2011.

Councillor Jim Harte, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Sport Leisure and Culture Policy Board, said, “Paisley Museum is home to an iconic and nationally significant collection of artefacts including the Arbuthnott Missal. Side by side with this mediaeval treasure are contemporary exhibitions including the incredibly popular Lego Brick City.

“Visit Scotland has recognised the sheer quality of the museum and the observatory and the dedication of the employees who make both attractions so welcoming for visitors.

“After the inspection in 2011 the council decided to aim for four stars. An improvement plan was put in place and it is excellent news that our efforts have paid off.

“As part of the improvement plan we installed a new automated planetarium in the Coats Observatory. We also invested £110,000 in a nine month restoration of the Pillar Gallery. During the modernisation, a suspended roof installed in the 1960’s was taken down unveiling the Victorian splendour of the original twin barrel vaulted ceiling.

Paisley Museum

“The next step is clearly achieving five stars and that’s our target for 2015.”

The number of stars awarded to an attraction tells visitors what they can expect:
*       1 star – clean and tidy, a fair and acceptable, if basic, standard
*       2 stars – a good overall standard
*       3 stars – a very good standard
*       4 stars – an excellent standard
*       5 stars – an exceptional standard.
The Paisley Museum opened in 1871. The building was designed by the well-known Glasgow architect John Honeyman and paid for by Sir Peter Coats of the famous Coats thread manufacturing family.

The museum is home to Paisley Shawl Collection which is a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland.
Coats Observatory opened in 1883 and is the oldest public observatory in Scotland. It was gifted to the people of Paisley by Thomas Coats and was also designed by John Honeyman.

For regular updates on local news and events follow @RenCouncilNews on Twitter or our page on Facebook at

Coats Observatory Acquires Commemoration Medal.

Coats Observatory has recently acquired a medal which was struck to commemorate the opening of Coats Observatory in 1883. Only a few of these medals were made and were given out to local dignitaries that attended the opening ceremony. This is the first medal of its kind to be displayed in the Observatory. 

The medal was acquired from a medal dealer in America, so Renfrewshire Arts & Museums are delighted to ‘repatriate’ a piece of Paisley’s history back to its home town. 

A grand ceremony had been planned to mark the opening of Coats Observatory, but in the end this had to be scaled down due to Thomas Coat’s deteriorating health. Although he had paid for the building, he only managed to visit the completed building once, and died only 2 weeks after the Observatory had opened.

Coats observatory is only one of 5 public observatories in the UK.

For further information on Paisley Museum, future events and exhibitions log onto or follow us or

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 or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @RenArtsMuseums.

coats observatory

Ideal SaturN-Day Night viewing! See Saturn up close in this year’s space-themed celebration.

Paisley Museum and Coats Observatory will be throwing open their doors on Saturday 18 May for a one off evening event packed with out-of-this-world activities.

Running as part of the national Museums at Night festival; Paisley Museum’s very own ‘SaturN-Day Night’ event offers a programme of free, astronomical activities suitable for all the family.

Museums at Night is the annual, after-hours celebration of arts, culture and heritage when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors for special evening events.

Coats Observatory

From 7.30pm at Paisley Museum, visitors can catch a show in our brand new digital Planetarium, or settle down to hear a Space Story, read in the stunning, new-look Pillar Gallery. Plus there will be plenty of hands-on activities for creative kids and those interested in science and film; with a Van de Graff experiment, make your own zoetrope and cosmic crafts.

Then, at 10pm as the light fades, SaturN-Day Night moves into the Dome in Coats Observatory for a spot of Saturn viewing and stargazing through the telescopes. An undisputed jewel in the crown of our solar system, Saturn is a sight that once seen, is never forgotten!

Renfrewshire Arts & Museums’ Observatory Officer John Pressly explained what visitors can hope to see (weather permitting of course!) on May 18.

“In May, Saturn has just gone past opposition – when it is directly opposite the Sun – meaning it will be at its brightest in the sky. Around 10.30pm, when the sky darkens, the planet will be shining brightly in the south-east. Visitors will see Saturn up close, including its rings, composed of billions of pieces of rock, ice and dust that constantly orbit the planet and may even catch a glimpse of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, the only other place in the Solar System apart from Earth where liquid flows on the surface.” 

SaturN-Day Night will run from 7.30pm – Midnight. Please see below for the full list of activities and times.

Planetarium Shows 

7.45pm, 8.30pm & 9.15pm

Coats Observatory

Booking essential on 0141 618 5087. Max of 15 places per show. Suitable for ages 5+. Each show lasts 20 mins.

Experience our new state-of-the-art digital planetarium taking you on a journey through distant galaxies and star clusters, zooming in on constellations and objects too faint to be seen except through a powerful telescope, all without leaving the comfort of your chair.

Space Stories 

7.30pm and 8.30pm

Paisley Museum

Please book at front desk on the night. Max of 25 places per session.

Come along to our storytelling sessions and escape into the magical world of ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – an enchanting children’s tale about a pilot stranded in the desert who meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. A fascinating story for children and adults alike.

Family Arts Activities 

7.30pm to 9.30pm

Paisley Museum

Drop-in activities including:

  • Fantastic Film – discover the science behind early film and create your own zoetrope and a short animation.
  • Van de Graff experiment – a mini science experiment with the Van De Graff generator and a microscope
  • Plus many more space-themed activities…


Saturn Viewing 

10pm to 12midnight

Coats Observatory (entry at this time will be via Oakshaw St)

The Dome will be open to allow visitors the chance to take in spectacular sightings though the telescope and to view mesmerising sights of Saturn at its best.*

Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

*Please note this activity is weather dependant.

For further information on Museums at Night, future events, exhibitions or shows log on to or follow us on Facebook

Coats Observatory, Paisley.

Now you can see the stars at any time, thanks to a new digital planetarium at Coats Observatory.

The old and the new combined at Coats Observatory recently when Scotland’s oldest public observatory, managed by Renfrewshire council’s arts and museums service, installed a new £11,500 digital planetarium, purchased from the Thomas Coats bequest, which can be enjoyed by daytime visitors as well as those attending the popular night sky viewings.

The observatory has had a planetarium since the late 1980s, allowing visitors to view a virtual version of the night sky from the comfort of their chair. Recently the planetarium has been upgraded to a state of the art digital version. This can project thousands of stars in an accurate representation of the night sky, can show the constellations by joining up the stars and then add the constellation art, which helps to show what the constellation represents and how its shape is made up from a group of stars.

The projector can also zoom in on many of the objects too faint to be seen except with a powerful telescope. High resolution images of distant galaxies, nebulae and star clusters can all be called up at the push of a button, bringing the wonders of the universe much closer to visitors. All of the planets in our Solar System can also be viewed in incredible detail.

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council said; ‘Coats Observatory is one of Renfrewshire’s most unique buildings, experienced by thousands of visitors each year. The Grubb telescope gives visitors to the night sky viewings an incredible opportunity to view the wonders of the universe, but unfortunately our weather doesn’t always work in our favour. The new digital planetarium will allow visitors to learn about our skies at any time of the year and regardless of the weather. This investment demonstrates Renfrewshire council’s commitment to building on the unique assets of this authority and it is hoped that the new planetarium will encourage even more visitors locally, nationally and internationally.

As well as its ability to display the night sky the digital planetarium can also show films. These full-dome movies immerse the viewer completely as the image is projected onto the entire roof above their heads. The observatory hopes to expand the library of films available and develop a programme of shows which will bring the most up to date astronomical discoveries to our visitors in an interesting and innovative way.

Members of the public are invited to experience this stunning new technology, for free, at the weekly planetarium shows every Tuesday from 2pm to 3pm. Booking is essential and can be made in person at Paisley Museum or by phoning 0141 840 6179. Maximum of 15 places.

To find out more about Coats Observatory click here.


All Paisley Photographs taken by Alex Kyle find more of photographs on Alex’s Facebook.