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Space The Almighty Buck United Kingdom Science

Chance To Snap Up Your Own Observatory 62

Hugh Pickens writes "Like to own your own five-story observatory equipped with a 12" Meade Schmidt Cassegrain catadioptric telescope and a 20-inch Shafer-Maksutov telescope — the second-largest of its kind in the world? Well, there's one for sale at Marina Towers in Swansea, at an observatory that could be Wales' largest telescope. The Swansea Astronomical Society moved out two years ago, blaming increased rent and other costs. So the city council has asked interested parties to submit their proposals and financial offers by the end of March. Brian Spinks, the chair of the society, says the extra rent and running costs meant the society's members would have had to find around £40,000 over the next 10 years. 'The members can no longer be expected to finance such a public presence from their annual subscription. If we had to find £40,000 over the next 10 years it would kill the society.' The observatory was built in 1988 and includes a domed roof, an access tower that houses a spiral staircase, a stained-glass roof by artist David Pearl and panels of carved poetry by Nigel Jenkins. 'We'd like to see a mixed-use development that incorporates features of the existing observatory building,' says Coun Gareth Sullivan, Swansea council's cabinet member for regeneration. 'Bringing the observatory back into use would add even more vitality to the promenade.'"
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Chance To Snap Up Your Own Observatory

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  • What kind of seeing do you have there?

  • Are you using the scopes primarily for photographic or visual research? If it turns out you can't keep them, would you at all be interested in having them set up in an observatory in the U.S. in a great location (high altitude desert, with great seeing) with the promise you and yours would have plenty of scope time over internet?

    • by RDW ( 41497 )

      At least one of the telescopes already seems to be in operation elsewhere:

      "We are lucky to possess a fine observatory is situated at the Fairwood playing fields of the University College of Swansea; which is equipped with a 12" Meade Schmidt Cassegrain catadioptric telescope. Regular observing evenings are held at the Fairwood site...Please note that the Society no longer has any involvement with the Marina Towers Observatory on Swansea Bay" []

      Looks like these astronomers would rath

      • by Genda ( 560240 )

        Why not sell observing time over the internet? I'll bet there would be folks interested all over the world who would be willing to rent observing time over the internet. Just put a decent digital camera on the scope and interface the scopes to a network server. Allow folks to do some interesting work on both scopes when you're not using them for viewing. Check the online rates for telescope time, figure what, perhaps a 25%-50% rent out, and you should have more than enough to cover you costs and still put a

        • That is actually a very cool Idea. I could see a good portion of us space geeks and those from reserving time.
  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @09:58AM (#38628872) Journal

    My impression from perusing Wikipedia is that this Shafer-Maksutov telescope is the second largest mainly because it's just not that good a design for professional work []. I'm not an astronomer, though, by any means.

    Any astronomers out there who could chime in on this?

    • Apparently, it's not such a good design for a haircut either.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Back when I was into this....

      That particular type of design was good for near field viewing as the focal length is 'ok'. The contrast is not as good. But that is ok for looking at local planets and such. The upside is they are usually sealed and not as prone to dust settling on the main mirrors. They are usually better for quick setup as they are lighter (the tube is not as long).

      For deep field you dont want too many mirrors involved and a bigger primary mirror. So these usually have excellent focal le

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        I got too big of tube and the mirror weighs too much... I should have went with a shorter one like the style you pointed out. Looks sweet though. But takes about 4 hours to setup (cool off and collimation).

        Out of curiosity, did you get a Dobsonian mount or another sort of Newtonian reflector?

    • I think it goes something like this:
      1) Any ordinary Maksutov of that size would take far too long to adjust to ambient temperature. It would also be heavy.
      2) This thing will have a lot of Maksutov benefits while being usable and huge (meaning powerful) at the same time.
      3) Professionals and others with more resources can get a Ritchey-Chretien (fuck you for not having unicode Slashdot) telescope or similar instead and indeed probably don't care for something like this.
      4) However, for amateurs shortcuts like

  • Maybe they should've thought of the future cost and rent increases when they spent (probibly more than £40,000) on that fancy stained glass roof and potery ensctibed wooden panels.

    And with (as stated above, I didn't look it up myself) 80 members, that's less than a friggen 5 note per membrer a month. I think they were just looking for an excuse to disband and/or find a new hobby.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I think they were just looking for an excuse

      No need to find an excuse. They did not want t pay it so they already left.
      As it is not owned by them, perhaps they did not pay anything for the first 15 years. The town then decided they did not want to pay for it and asked money.

      Don't forget that it is owned by the town, not by the society.

    • They are always more or less motivated people in this kind of society. I assume that if the annual subscription should be raised by 50£ (about 77$), some may leave, leaving the whole burden remaining on the really active members, eventually leading to the death of the society. It is often hard to find enough motivated people to run a society.
    • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @10:32AM (#38629058)

      I think they were just looking for an excuse to disband and/or find a new hobby

      The society didn't disband. they just moved out - 2 years ago. Check their webiste.

      I'd guess that they simply found a better location. I wouldn't be surprised if Swansea promenade suffered a lot of bad light pollution and their website gives the impression that they've got a better location, elsewhere. Maybe even, for less money.

      Although it might sound nice for Swansea council to say "yes, we built an observatory on the promenade", it doesn't sound like it' was particularly successful if it's been 2 years since the previous users left and it's still empty. You have to wonder whether it was built with utility in mind (carvings? stained glass?) for astronomy, or simply as a vanity project for the council to spend public money on.

    • Ah you forget this is Wales. The economy is something of a mess due to well various factors but Thatcher's reforms are probably a significant reason. The result is the area is on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration projects. These tend to have arts funding in the pot which results in random artworks being attached to the strangest things.

      Alternatively it could have been a member dying and leaving them a one off payment or something.

  • It'd make a great location for a fish and chips takeaway or a pub!

    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

      It does sound exactly like the kind of quirky property which Wetherspoon's likes to turn into pubs.

    • We have a place in Tucson called Sky Bar that operates a couple big (12-16") telescopes on the smoking patio every evening. There are also large screen displays inside showing various astronomical wonders. But it's also the world capital of astronomy, so there are plenty of poeple who work in the industry (including myself) to keep the bar stools occupied.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @11:35AM (#38629406)

    Why doesn't he rent the place and turn it into a publicity center for his pseudo-space flight program? You know, future passengers can sip champagne and chat and rub shoulders with other folks with too much money? Take a peek through a real telescope, that is looking at outer space!

    ". . . oh, space, yes . . . that's where we're going . . . yes . . . so that's what we'll see up there . . . ? . . . jolly good, yes . . ."

    Plus he could score some good PR points by letting the astronomers use it for free.

    "Virgin Promiscuous is committed to satisfying the needs of science . . . ", etc.

  • An access tower that houses a spiral staircase? Why? A stained-glass roof by artist David Pearl? Why? Panels of carved poetry by Nigel Jenkins?

    Maybe the Marina Towers in Swansea is a pretty good place to host a reception? Perhaps Swansea Astronomical Society is more interested in Astronomy than entertaining??

  • Swansea Council (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I live in swansea and all i can say is this is typical of swansea council, They are greedy, corrupt and stupid.

    Driving out useful tennants to leave facility like that empty can be added to the list of debacles which include asbestos in the public leisure centre, allowing hudreds of studio apartments to be built in the city centre that no one wants to live in and deciding the best transport policy was not to buy buses that could drive on the existing roads in the city centre but to buy extra long buses and r

  • I'd pay $6200 annual rent (GBP40K / 10 years) to live in an awesome pad, even if it meant living in Swansea. Though it probably costs a fortune to heat it.

  • Observatory for sale (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Just to correct some of the comments. The Tower and Observatory are empty - no scopes. The 20 inch is, in fact, the largest of its kind in the world and there is unlikely to be anything larger due to the difficulty of making and supporting this kind of mirror. The buildings were built with European funding. Change of use will bring many problems - disabled access, lift needed, fire regulations.....

  • This could be funded from the public purse with the smash that gets lost down the back of George Osborne's sofa.

  • During the heat of the property bubble, a New York developer set eyes on view of Lake Geneva from the grounds of Yerkes observatory. An $8 million deal would have preserved the 40 inch refractor [] (The world's largest useful refractor) in exchange for the use of the land for condo development. The deal fell through when local residents objected to the condo development which gave the developer time to notice that the bottom fell out of the real estate market. I'd been wondering whether the deal would go th

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva