University looks to the skies for Autumn Moonwatch Week

A series of Scotland-wide events, coordinated by the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Science Centre, will mark ‘Autumn Moonwatch’ this week as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Across the country, star-gazing events and public lectures will be held at locations which together form a Scotland-wide scale model of the solar system – believed to be the largest such model ever created.

Dr Martin Hendry of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is coordinating the project, under the umbrella title of the “Scottish Solar System”. The events will be hosted by Scottish astronomy clubs and societies and will take place on, or around, Saturday 24 October.

Each event location will represent a planet, moon or asteroid within the solar system, with a correctly-scaled model of its corresponding object on display – from a pebble-sized model of the asteroid Vesta, to the entire main building of Glasgow Science Centre representing the Sun.  Giant balloon models, painted with the help of local schools, will represent the rocky planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. 

The Scotland-wide events began in style on Saturday 17 October, when Highlands Astronomical Society projected a 15m-wide image of Saturn onto the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness.

Scottish Solar System events include:

• Autumn Moonwatch weekend at Glasgow Science Centre on Saturday 24 October and Sunday 25 October.
• Airdrie Public Observatory open evenings, from Friday 23 October, where visitors can get a close-up view of the Moon.
• Public observing sessions, at the University of Glasgow’s Acre Road Observatory on Saturday 24 October, and at the Gilmorehill campus on Monday 26 October, offering views of the Moon, planets and stars.
• “How to build and use a telescope” at Bankhall Community Centre in Forth on Saturday 24 October.
• “Stars over the Glen” at Kindrogan Outdoor Centre, Blairgowrie on Saturday 24 October, featuring daytime lectures and evening observing sessions.
• Public observing of the Moon and Jupiter, at Glenamour and Scroggie Hall, Dumfries and Galloway, Saturday 24 October.
• A public lecture and observing event in Borgie Forest, Caithness, Thursday 29 October, offering some of the darkest skies in Europe.
• Public observing event at Stratosphere in Aberdeen, Thursday 29 October
• Public lecture and observing event at the Shetland Museum, Lerwick, Saturday 24 October.

Dr Hendry said: “The Scottish Solar System project provides an excellent opportunity to encourage people across the country to take a closer look at the wonders of the night sky, and to think about just how big the Universe is.

“We hope to inspire a new generation of young people to appreciate astronomy and find out more about the science of the solar system.”

The Scottish Solar System events are all part of the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years since Galileo’s first glimpse through a telescope, and are partially funded by the Scottish Government and the Royal Astronomical Society.

For more information about the Scottish Solar System project, and to find an event near you, visit

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

First published: 16 October 2009

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