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Davagh Forest - International Dark Sky Place in Northern Ireland


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Some great news for stargazers in Northern Ireland!  The new 'OM' observatory has been given recognition by the IDA.

Davagh Dark Sky - Click

I've been involved with this project for about 18 months, along with other members of the Irish Astronomical Association, although it's been in the planning for several years.

I had the (unofficial) role of technical officer, and was enlisted with the job of getting the telescope up and running.  I had a concrete pier and a Meade LX600 14" SCT and I had to get it assembled.  I first set about drawing up the design of the pier adapter plate, and sourcing and overseeing manufacture of it.  I did some measurements, accurately calculated north from the location, and drilled and fixed the plate to the pier, using chemical fixings.  Three of us got it lifted up on the 8 foot high pillar without any mishaps - I did a lot of sweating that day!  There were a few clear nights and I was able to set up the polar alignment and test out the goto.  The Starlock system on that scope is really pretty accurate, and everything ends up in the middle of the eyepiece following a simple two star alignment.  We are currently sourcing a second camera for it, so I'm hoping to have a nice new colour CMOS in the next couple of weeks to test out.

There have been several photoshoots of the Observatory and the BBC were out on Thursday night doing some filming for a new show featuring Barra Best about places to visit in Northern Ireland.  I was asked to be involved the filming, and although this was way out of my normal comfort zone, I went ahead with it anyway.   It actually turned out to be really enjoyable, and the whole BBC crew were really nice, and also genuinely interested in the sky and the new building.

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OM Facebook - Click

The official OM website is due to be launched tomorrow on Monday.  I have a few photos that I took, see below, and hopefully you will get to see the inside of the building on the website. I think the building really works in the environment.

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Edited by tooth_dr
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That is a really great story and the very best of luck to you - it should be a success! What camera are you putting onto it. I have the same OTA (allthough on an EQ8 and much less impressive pier) and I am quite impressed with the optics - it can cover 24 x 36 mm with a flat field and without much vignetting.

Edited by gorann
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1 hour ago, gorann said:

That is a really great story and the very best of luck to you - it should be a success! What camera are you putting onto it. I have the same OTA (allthough on an EQ8 and much less impressive pier) and I am quite impressed with the optics - it can cover 24 x 36 mm with a flat field and without much vignetting.

Hi Goran - thank you.  The jury is still out, but I think I'm steering towards the 2600MC or the 268C.  Planning on binning 3x3 with the AP 0.67x FR, and space it out to around 1700mm FL, to improve the FOV and resolution.  Hoping to run it in Sharpcap (or similiar) and do some live stacking for visitors.  If I get to do a few night time sessions with it myself, I'll give it my best shot at some stuff at the longer FL.

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I just found a couple of photos on the Discover NI website, from a photoshoot earlier in the year, pre-covid, featuring my 10" scope and 15x70s.  Quite a few scuff marks on the dovetail, but better to see a well used scope than a brand new one just for props (I hope)

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An image of OM Dark Sky Observatory

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The new observatory and visitor centre looks absolutely fantastic and we're really pleased to hear of the official recognition of dark sky park status from the IDA.  Our congratulations to everyone involved! Clear skies!

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