Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 01:00 UK

Telescope in hunt for supernovas

Observatory (Pic: HAS)
The observatory will benefit from dark skies over Culloden Moor

Scotland's newest space observatory has been suggested as an aid in the search for supernovas - some of the most spectacular events in the Universe.

Highland Astronomical Society's (HAS) 75,000 building on the edge of Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, will be officially opened on Saturday.

The University of Cambridge and Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, have an interest in what work it could do.

Supernovas occur when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses.

They produce the same amount of energy as trillions of nuclear bombs detonating simultaneously to form a neutron star.

Their extreme brightness allows them to be seen in distant galaxies.

CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVA
Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John Brown, and MP Charles Kennedy are among the dignitaries invited to the official opening
Making the observatory accessible to disabled people was key to its design
Highland Astronomical Society has about 85 members
The observatory will be open to the public on Fridays from September

The HAS Jim Savage-Lowden Observatory - which is named after one of its founding members - is in a prime location for observing events in space.

Built on Culloden Moor, it is not affected by light pollution from street and house lighting in Inverness.

HAS chairman John Gilmour said: "We have had interest from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and University of Cambridge.

"With the telescope being quite powerful there is useful scientific work it can do, for instance we detect supernovas in distant galaxies.

"We could also discover comets."

The telescope has 700 times maximum magnification allowing viewers to detect objects 15,000 times fainter than those seen with the naked eye.

Mr Gilmour said: "It means we can see Pluto and the moons of Mars - Phobos and Deimos - which are essentially very small asteroids."


SEE ALSO
New space observatory completed
09 Jun 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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