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  • A STAR-STUDDED CELEBRATION On Saturday, 30th July everyone gathered to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the South Downs Planetarium to the public in 2001.

    There was great reason for the volunteers and guests to celebrate as the Planetarium has achieved astronomical success since it first opened its doors to welcome school children and members of the public of all ages. No one would have guessed that over 130,000 visitors would have visited the Planetarium since it opened and that there are dozens of schools visiting each month.

    All the guests were delighted that the Patron of the Planetarium, Sir Patrick Moore, attended and shared his praise and admiration for all that has been achieved in 10 years. The party also gave everyone the opportunity to salute the pivotal role of John Green, MBE, in steering the development of the Planetarium from the first idea to the present. John was presented with a gift to mark his enormous contribution as he steps down from his role as Trustee. The celebration would not have been complete without a demonstration by the Planetarium's very own star, Dr John Mason, MBE, of some stunning new all-dome video clips produced by volunteer Matthew Yorston, with accompanying music by Caroline Beevis.

    The Party concluded with a special "10th Birthday" Cake which was cut by Sir Patrick and John Green. Now the Planetarium looks forward to the next 10 years and continued success.

  • Unique and Wonderful

    As our Patron, Sir Patrick has always been an inspiration to us all. It was with enormous gratitude and pride that we accepted his offer to exhibit some of his work at the Planetarium as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations.

    Sir Patrick has been observing since childhood and from the very beginning his drawings and observing notes have been wonderful to see and read. His illustrations are particularly beautiful and his notes describe so eloquently what he has observed. It was a great pleasure to put together just a small selection of his unique work starting with his first drawing of a partial solar eclipse drawn in 1936 when he was just 13 years old. The work exhibited includes some of his Moon observations and detailed drawings of its craters. This work went on to support NASA in their preparations for the first Moon landing.

    The drawings on display span a period of 75 years and reveal the beautiful dark markings and polar caps of Mars, including the onset of a great dust storm, fine details in the belts and zones of Jupiter, and the stunning rings of Saturn. Many of the drawings have never been seen in public before and visitors to the Planetarium during our Anniversary celebrations were able to see and appreciate the outstanding work of a great observational astronomer of our time.

  • Sir Martin Rees Opens Planetarium

    On Friday, 5th April 2002, the South Downs Planetarium was officially opened by Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, marking a major milestone in the realisation of a dream.

    It began in 1995 when the trustees began raising funds to transform an existing storage building into a Planetarium and Science Centre. Since then, we have raised about £ 1 million which, together with gifts in kind such as building materials and computer equipment, have finally brought the project to fruition.

    Throughout the life of the project, we have received - and continue to receive - tremendous support from a wide variety of organisations and individuals. We are, of course, hugely appreciative of those major sponsors whose names appear in the foyer - without them we could not have succeeded. But we are also greatly indebted to the hundreds of people who have helped us, either with smaller donations, with their freely-given labour and expertise during the building work, by acting as volunteer staff during our work-up period since July 2001, and in many other ways.

    To you all, please accept our warm and heartfelt thanks.

  • Solar trail

    Soon after the Planetarium opened on 5th April 2002, we completed our "Solar Trail", which runs along the 200 yards of approach road leading from the school roundabout in front of the Sixth Form Centre down to the Planetarium.

    The Solar Trail performs two main functions. Firstly, it provides much needed lighting along the approach road. Secondly, at regular intervals, it gives basic facts and information about each of the planets in the Solar System.

    From the new Sports Centre, named after Major Tim Peake, Britain's new astronaut, the trail starts with the dwarf planet Pluto, just as it would if you were in a spacecraft approaching the Sun from outside the Solar System. Then, as you go further along the trail, you pass, in sequence, points representing Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury and, finally, the Sun.

    As part of our commitment to care for the environment, the lights along the Solar Trail are of the full cut-off design ensuring that no light goes up into the night sky. Additionally, three of the lanterns are powered by wind-driven generators.

    The Solar Trail has been made possible through the generosity of the Seagull Trust, Urbis Lighting Ltd, Brian Fieldhouse, Henry Adams and Partners, with technical advice and assistance from Gerry Davis.

  • Range Of Presentation Continually Improved

    On average there are 8-10 different public presentation for the community each month, and our wide range of presentations for schoolchildren both complements and supplements their National Curriculum work and meets the basic educational needs of a range of ages and abilities. However, we have steadily increased our expertise in the production of tailor-made shows to meet the specific needs of university undergraduates, individual colleges and schools, including those from overseas, and various adult and youth groups, and to be able to produce new presentations rapidly, in response to topical events such as the appearance of a comet.

    The main star projector produces a high quality night sky with 4,500 pinpoint stars, supplemented by an array of slide and video projectors controlled from the auditorium console by the lecturer. We are continually working to enhance all of our projection systems to enable the creation of new and even better presentations. The work, which involves new hardware, system planning, cabling and installation, commissioning and programming, is being carried out by the Planetarium's team of technical experts, drawn from our pool of over 40 volunteers.

    To considerably enhance the utility of the Planetarium as a Science Centre, the construction of a multi-functional hall, with additonal toilets and storage, alongside the existing building, was completed in the summer of 2009. This provides a highly adaptable multi-purpose space for use by visting school groups and as a location for additional exhibits and hands-on activities during courses for adults and children.