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Astronomy Residencies at ACA Observatory

An exciting opportunity for pupils studying Astronomy, Astro Physics or Space Science.

The North Pennines Observatory @ACA is offering bespoke astronomy residencies for students at GCSE, BTEC and A Level.  The observatory is part of Allenheads Contemporary Arts, a pioneering organisation which fuses art and science.  Directors Helen Ratcliffe and Alan Smith have over 25 years’ experience hosting educational residencies for students studying at all levels. For our Astro Residencies we are teaming up with Physics teacher Roy Alexander who has a BSc in Planetary Physics and is Director of Learning and Lead Astronomer at AstroVentures


Situated in an AONB designated dark skies area in the North Pennines, the observatory offers the perfect escape from the school environment and the chance for students to convert their astronomy knowledge into action.  The lack of light-pollution means it is an excellent location for both telescopic and naked-eye stargazing.  As well as the purpose-built observatory and warm room, our base at the Old School House in Allenheads includes a beautiful accommodation wing and a spacious classroom equipped with big-screen projection and surround sound for indoor lessons, workshops and presentations.  We have a number of on-site and off-site accommodation options to suit different group sizes.


A residency would be designed alongside schemes of work at Key Stages 4 and 5 and offers students the opportunity to build on their GCSE, BTEC or A Level curriculum and to be inspired beyond it.


William Hale, Head of Physics at Faringdon Community College, Oxford had this to stay about his school’s GCSE group visit in January 2022:  'We had an amazing stay the at the North Pennies Observatory. Alan and Helen were fantastic hosts. Our students had two cloud free nights practising observing with telescopes. They saw Andromeda, the Orion nebula and many other targets after learning how to navigate the night sky.  We were able to get a massive amount of astronomy theory done in the well-equipped classroom. We also visited Hadrian's Wall and a safely adapted local lead mine which our students loved. Several of the students told me on the way home they didn't want the trip to end'

Art and Astronomy at ACA new lithos circle.jpg

 students in our observatory

Roy Alexander with students


Edge HD Celestion telescope

Johann Bayer 1624 - 1661. The first star atlas, signifying the location of stars within a given constellation.

Daylight moon from our observatory

The Moon  from our Observatory


Classroom with 4m screen and surround sound

We’ll work with you to create a residency programme specific to your needs and interests. This would include:


Supervised use of the observatory and all astronomical equipment (weather permitting) for stargazing and viewing of near planetary objects in our solar system, the milky way and distant galaxies. Equipment includes Edge HD Celestion telescope, ZWO ASI Deep Space camera, Canon DSLR and smart phone adapter for astrophotography, as well as 4 additional portable telescopes.


Bespoke educational programme created specifically for you by Helen and Alan with our lead astronomer Roy Alexander who can provide guidance through the night sky and deliver presentations on our solar system, meteorites, galaxies, aurora and much, much more.


Support to expand your residency with an introduction to ACA and the environs including Allenheads Heritage and History, guided walks and visits to local areas of interest such as Hadrian’s Wall, or a supervised trip into the underground labyrinths of the area’s lead mining past.


Well-equipped classroom space with big screen projection and wi-fi throughout, for your daytime teaching or recreational activities.


Technical support to facilitate screenings, audio visual presentations etc. throughout.


Assistance in planning of transport and catering.


Please contact Alan or Helen to discuss ideas for your school visit and to receive a quote.  Ideally, residencies are for a minimum of 3 nights and take place during the darker nights between late Autumn and early Spring.


Please don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone.

Helen Ratcliffe & Alan Smith

07966257276 / 07813313985

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