Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 11:17 UK

Asteroid threat telescope on way

The Schmidt camera
The cost of installing the telescope is estimated at 54,000

A telescope worth £500,000 which will monitor the threat posed by asteroids to earth is being delivered to an observatory in Powys.

The Spaceguard Centre, in Knighton, has been given the Schmidt camera free of charge by the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University.

It will be used to spot near earth objects and then track them.

The telescope is not used in Cambridge anymore because of light pollution, but Powys' dark skies are said to be ideal.

The telescope is expected to arrive in Knighton later on Friday, but it could be months before it is installed.

It will be stored temporarily at a water bottling plant in the town.

The Spaceguard Centre started a campaign to raise £54,000 to install the Schmidt camera in January 2008.

The large telescope has a wide field of view and takes photographs of the sky.

Knighton's Spaceguard Centre
The Spaceguard Centre monitors asteroids

A spokeswoman for the Spaceguard centre said the Schmidt camera was 40 years old and was worth about £500,000.

She described it as a "phenomenal piece of British engineering".

It is thought the telescope will work well in Knighton because the sky above the town is free, in the main, from light pollution.

Jay Tate, who runs the centre, has said previously: "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.

"(The telescope) would mean we could search for objects as well as tracking them once they have been identified."

The Spaceguard Centre currently has a robotic telescope, which is able to track asteroids and its observatory attracts school parties and tourists.



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