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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 15:57 GMT
Asteroid telescope's fitting bill
The Schmidt camera (picture: The Spaceguard Centre)
The cost of installing the telescope is estimated at 54,000
An observatory which monitors the potential threat to earth from asteroids has launched a campaign to raise money to install a new telescope.

The Spaceguard Centre in Knighton, Powys, has been offered the telescope free of charge by the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.

It would mean the centre could hunt for near earth objects as well as tracking them once they have been discovered.

The cost to install and house the device has been estimated at 54,000.

Known as a Schmidt camera, it has a wide field of view and takes photographs of the sky, said Jay Tate, who runs the centre.

Mr Tate said images were compared to "see what had moved" and potential comets or asteroids could then be identified.

He explained why the telescope had been offered to the centre.

"They can't use it in Cambridge anymore because of the light pollution," he said.

Knighton's Spaceguard Centre
The Spaceguard Centre monitors asteroids

"This part of Wales has very dark skies so that wouldn't be a problem.

"Nasa searches for near earth objects and it funds six telescopes in the US and two in Italy and Australia, but no-one else is doing this sort of work in the UK.

"It would mean we could search for objects as well as tracking them once they have been identified."

The Spaceguard Centre has a robotic telescope which is able to track asteroids and it also has an observatory which attracts school parties and tourists.

Mr Tate added that no funding was available from the Welsh Assembly Government, the UK government or the National Lottery to help pay towards installing the new telescope.

"I am now turning my attention to private sponsorship," he said.

Knighton's county councillor Ken Harris said the telescope would be a "unique tourist attraction".

"It would be great if someone or an organisation could help the Spaceguard Centre fund this expansion," he added.

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