We run about 700 public events at the observatory each year which means we are open for our visitors almost every night of the year. Our observatory events cater for all levels of knowledge and for all ages from 6 to 106. No question is too silly, no question too complex, we're happy to discuss everything from high level cosmology through to why the sky is blue. Our team of dedicated volunteers and astronomers love to be asked questions, and we actively encourage it throughout our events. We aim to deliver science from the ground up... if you want more, just ask, we're happy to talk at every level.
Our Main Evening Events run each night about 7pm for three hours and will include a tour of the observatory and all the equipment and will have a main presentation in the warm room which will be about 40 minutes. The title of these events refers to the theme of this talk, so we cover topics as diverse as the aurora, one of our most popular nights, through to specific themed planet nights, such as our ever popular Jupiter and Saturn evenings. We will spend as much time as possible using the fantastic array of telescopes we have on site to observe the cosmos. These events are usually in full darkness to maximise time on the telescopes, but during the summer months will be partial daylight and guests may enjoy summer sights such as beautiful sunsets and enigmatic noctilucent clouds, with stargazing possible towards the end of the event, we can also make use of specialist solar telescopes to observe the sun during the daytime. Our Weekend Late Night events have the same format as the main events, but are in the late night slots of Fridays, Saturdays and some Thursdays. These events are our premium events so have limited guest numbers to give a more intimate event and have other perks. We also run Family Events such as Young Explorers and Space Kids, and special events such as Relaxed Astronomy to make sure there is something for everyone. Please note we are only open to the public for the events listed on the calendar and we are very limited on space, so you need to have a ticket purchased in advance to attend.
During most events, the priority is to stargaze where possible. Our astronomers will keep a watch on the sky for any opportunities to observe throughout the event. The night sky changes throughout the year, so different event themes and observing targets will vary. But rest assured, we know the best places to point our telescopes to get the most phenomenal views of deep sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae and galaxies when conditions are suitable. We’ll also observe from our viewing decks to see with naked eye sights such as the Milky Way and if you’re lucky some shooting stars too! When you’re not looking through the eyepiece of a telescope, our astronomers work hard to ensure you will be thoroughly engaged with tours of the site, along with interactive and educational talks on topics such as meteorites, cosmology or exoplanets. The range and diversity of our talks means that we regularly have multiple return visits from guests keen to gain a greater understanding of the vast and beautiful universe which we inhabit.
UPDATE - While we are operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 social distancing, please remain in your car until you are greeted by a member of staff.
Please arrive at the top car park next to the observatory about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time of your event. Plan your journey to allow plenty of time for the local country roads and driving up the 2-mile access track to the car park which has a 15mph speed limit. The access track is opened approximately 30 minutes before the start of each event, unless there is an before yours in which case a member of staff will be marshalling traffic flow and will give you directions when to drive up. If you arrive early and the bottom gate (about 100 metres from the main road) is locked, please wait in the bottom car park until a member of staff opens the gate. We recommend you check weather and road closure updates for your route before setting off.
All events are ticketed and tickets are purchased in advance through our website calendar (https://kielderobservatory.org/our-events). We do not sell tickets through third parties. When your booking is complete, the website will immediately send your tickets as a PDF attachment to the confirmation email. If you do not see this email please check your spam folder, then contact the office to check your booking has been confirmed. Please double check the time and date of your booking as they are only available for a specific event! You can print the ticket off at home or show us a digital copy on your phone, but please remember to download it before arrival as there is very little mobile signal in the area. We are unable sell tickets on the door.
The access track to the observatory is two miles long and has a compacted stone surface. The surface can be uneven with a few potholes so please stick to the 15mph speed limit however it is accessible at all times for small city cars and large vehicles such as coaches. It is single lane, so we control traffic flow on the track when events are running. If you do encounter a vehicle heading the opposite direction, reverse carefully to a passing place to allow them to pass. Due to the limitations of the track, we do not allow drop-ins at the observatory and we ask only those with tickets use the track at the time of their event. The track is locked to vehicles outside of observatory event times, however it is open to pedestrians and cyclists during the day.
All of our events go ahead whatever the weather unless severe weather such as deep snow prevent access to the observatory. When it is cloudy or raining it will not be possible to observe through the telescopes so we will run our well-rehearsed backup plan of extra talks and other activities to bring the universe alive and answer all your astronomical questions. During adverse weather, we keep a close eye on the weather forecast and updates regarding road closures, etc. and will cancel the event if we deem it unsafe to continue. We never take the decision to cancel lightly but if we do have to cancel an event we will notify you via email, text and phone call and offer you the choice of either a full refund or a voucher to rebook. We will contact you by the number and email address you've given us when you booked so make sure you're available on the day to take our call. We will also update our Facebook page and also notify people via Twitter to let you know if an event is cancelled. We strongly recommend all visitors to check local weather and road access updates before setting off as the area is remote and conditions can deteriorate rapidly without warning. You can cancel your booking for a transfer voucher up to 14 days before the date of your event, full details available here: https://kielderobservatory.org/contact/terms.
o Ideally your ticket printed out or on your smartphone. If you don't have this, we will still be able to validate your booking at the door with your name and mobile phone number.
o Warm clothes. The observatory is located in a remote part of Northumberland and it gets extremely cold. Do not underestimate how cold you might get – bring your warmest clothing and footwear. We have a wood burning stove keeping the classroom warm and cosy and serve a hot drink during main and late events.
o A face covering.
o Suitable torch - red light is ideal for getting around under our exceptionally dark skies, but you are also welcome to use any normal torch such as a mobile phone to help you from the car park to the observatory, all we ask is that you point it downwards so that it doesn't interfere with other guests' night vision
o For refreshments, the observatory has a tuck shop selling astronomically themed sugar (Mars Bars, Milky Ways...) and we are able to accept cash or card payments for these items. Just one thing to remember, we make the best hot chocolate you have ever tasted... one not to miss!
o In summer (about May-September) we may have a lot of midges on site depending on the weather; we have lots of insect repellent on site for our guests to use or you may want to bring your own.
o An open mind... your imagination is the only limit to what you will discover at Kielder Observatory.
We have a dedicated car park at the top of the access track about 80 metres from the observatory buildings, which is free for our guests to use. There is space for motorhomes if you are using one to attend your event but please note the access track is locked after the event finishes and there is no overnight parking allowed here. Overnight parking is possible at Skyspace car park (at the bottom of the track) and Kielder Castle car park, tickets are purchased from the Castle carpark ticket machine.
The observatory is all level or ramped except for one of our telescope turrets which has six steps. The other two telescope rooms on site are wheelchair accessible and the Sir Pat 16” telescope has a low mounting for wheelchair users. We have one accessible composting toilet on site. If you are a wheelchair user, please leave a note on your event booking, or drop the office a message, prior to your visit so the event team on the evening are aware. The car park is approx. 80 metres from the observatory building and the surface is not tarmacked, so anyone who cannot manage the walk can be dropped off at the observatory entrance before the car is parked in the car park. If they are the driver they can park the car next to the observatory however we are limited on space so please let us know beforehand so we can ensure everyone gets the access they need. We run special Relaxed Astronomy events for those who may need slower, quieter events to feel comfortable.
The website events calendar is live and accurately shows availability. Our events are popular, special events, weekends and school holidays especially may sell out far in advance. Due to the limitations of the site, unfortunately it is not possible to add extra places to an event. We have a small office team so we are unable to offer waiting lists for sold out events; cancellations are released on to the website on a first-come-first-served basis.
Due to the late timings and scientific nature of the talks, we recommend our Main Evening and Weekend Late Night Events are best suited for ages 12 and above. Young Explorers is for families with children under the age of 12 and Space Kids for the younger children aged 6-10 with fun interactive activities. We do not currently run any events aimed at children under the age of 6. However no events are restricted by age and we leave this up to parents to decide as they know their children best. All children must be accompanied by an adult and everyone attending needs a ticket. Babies under two years old who are in arms or in a sling do not need a ticket, however if they will be in a buggy you will need a ticket for them as we are very limited on space.
Kielder Observatory is happy to permit assistance dogs/guide dogs on to the site, but regret that no other pets are allowed at the observatory. You are however welcome to leave them in your car in the car park and visit them during the event.
We have a single unisex composting toilet on site. We have no running water so waste is sustainably recycled into compost and helps reduce our impact on the environment. Please be careful not to drop anything down the loo as it will have to become part of the ecosystem! We have no running water so we provide hand sanitiser for cleaning your hands.
UPDATE 01/03/21 – bookings are being limited currently to a maximum of six people to follow Rule Of Six government restrictions regarding COVID-19. Please ensure your visit follows guidelines at the time regarding households mixing.
Group bookings on our public events are limited to eight people per group. We always endeavour to ensure everyone attending our events has the same fantastic experience and sometimes large groups can be disruptive to other guests so unfortunately we cannot accept groups larger than this at this time.
Our events booking page has options for concession tickets. Concessions are defined as follows:
Persons who are registered disabled.
Persons who are aged 65+
Persons under 16 years of age
Children under the age of 2 are free if carried in person or in a sling. The concessionary rate is applicable for all children in a pram or pushchair due to the limited space available in the classroom (we would advise parents that events are in a relatively small classroom for 41 persons, and can last up to 45 minutes -1 hour between breaks, and that whilst we have on-site composting toilets, we have no dedicated baby change facility at this time)
There is no accommodation on site. Some guests will drive home after an event or some will book accommodation in the area, we have a list of local providers here: https://kielderobservatory.org/your-visit/places-to-stay
The observatory is usually closed during the day and the access track is a popular hiking and cycling route. Visitors by foot are welcome to walk around our viewing decks and enjoy the view down the valley and the architecture of our buildings, however please note the observatory is closed during the day and there will be no facilities. Please take any rubbish home with you as there are no bins on site – thank you for your cooperation! We ask you to be off site by the time our guests start arriving for events as they use the outside space for observing. Near the top of the track you will find the fantastic Kielder Skyspace open art installation which is best enjoyed at dawn and dusk; if you are walking or cycling late please ensure you have lights and high viz as the access track will become busy with vehicles.
We have a small gift shop on site which sells astronomically themed chocolate bars and a small range of Kielder Observatory merchandise – all proceeds go towards supporting our charity. We may not have running water but we do accept card payments! Please note there is no café or food facility at the observatory. Our apologies but we cannot accept gift vouchers as payment in the gift shop on site – due to the limits of our systems they are online use only.
Please be aware that we allow visitors to record film and take photographs throughout their visits and these may be posted on social media. We take photographs, and film videos and time lapses for use on social media. We also have password protected IP cameras on site to monitor the weather. Only staff are permitted to access images from the livestream.