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Observing The Night Sky

highlands astronomical society, jim savage lowden observatory, cullodenThe Highlands have got their own observatory. The new JSL Observatory by Culloden Battlefield is the outcome of superb work by members of the Highlands Astronomical Society (HAS). It was opened on 21 June 2008 by the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor John Brown.

A nightly diary

During the Highland Science Festival HAS, weather permitting, opened the doors to their new observatory every night in the first week of the Festival, with the exception of Tuesday night, when the Society had their meeting in the Green House. Each night there was a different theme:

Saturday 1 November: Uranus and Neptune
Sunday 2 November:
Star Clusters
Monday 3 November:
The Messier Objects
Tuesday 4 November: HAS Event at the Green House
Wednesday 5 November:
Planetary Nebulae and Multiple Stars
Thursday 6 November:
The Moon - Lunar 100 part A
Friday 7 November: The Moon - Lunar 100 part B

professor john brown opens the jim savage lowden observatory in cullodenThe format for these events is for the evening to start at 8:00 pm and finish at 11:00 pm. The last admission is at 10:00 pm. On the Tuesday evening, there is a later session to follow the HAS meeting. The observatory is only open if the weather conditions are suitable for observing. This is when there is a reasonable clear sky and no rain or mist. If you want to double-check to make sure the observatory is open before you set off, go to the HAS website at

Admission to the observatory is free, but a donation is very much appreciated to help with the costs of maintaining the observatory.

How to get there

the business end of the observatory's 14" telescope, which is theoretically able to spot a runing candle at 80 miles distance!The observatory is located at the new National Trust for Scotland visitor centre at Culloden Battlefield. Drive to the furthest car park and park there. The observatory is a short walk to the timber building beside the car park opposite the visitor centre.

The business end of the telescope at the observatory. This telescope could theoretically spot a candle burning at a distance of 80 miles!

NOTE: when you arrive at the car park, please dip your headlights, or better still switch to sidelights. The path to the observatory is lit with low level lights. Please do not use white torches when approaching or entering the observatory, as these will instantly destroy the night vision of the people already in the observatory. It would take them 20 minutes or so to get dark-adapted again. If you have a red light torch, bring it along. If you have binoculars, bring them along too!

Make sure you dress warm and ideally wear shoes with thick soles, as this will keep you warm when standing still in the observatory.

Other Public Observing Sessions

a spiral galaxy. some of these galaxies can be glimpsed during the highland science festival.If you want to find out about other public observing sessions at the observatory, please check the Highlands Astronomical Society's website at You will also find information about the Society's other activities, and how to become a member.

We look forward to welcoming you to future observing sessions!

Click here to go to the main programme page

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