Observatory plans star attraction

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The Independent Online

To celebrate three centuries of scientific exploration, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich has embarked upon a £15m project to create a window on the universe with the construction of one of the world's biggest planetariums and educational science centres.

To celebrate three centuries of scientific exploration, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich has embarked upon a £15m project to create a window on the universe with the construction of one of the world's biggest planetariums and educational science centres.

They have dug a huge hole next to the existing dome in order to build the new complex, which will include a 120-seat planetarium. The buildings will also include a range of new galleries and a science education centre providing information on 21st-century exploration of the night sky.

The complex is three times the size of the existing one which closed in 2004 after 40 years of service, and is scheduled to be completed by spring 2007.

The new centre will also allow nearly double the number of objects to be placed on display, many of which have never before been seen by the public, such as an 1825 chronometer used on the QE2's maiden voyage, and a 19th-century chronometer that went to sea on the Cutty Sark.

It is 330 years this month since Charles II ordered its creation and today the Royal Observatory, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, houses one of the finest collections of scientific instruments in the world, including John Harrison's H4 clock, which won him the Longitude prize in the 1760s.

A spokeswoman said: "The redevelopment will revitalise the site's fine 1890s South Building ... There will also be a refurbishment of Flamsteed House, the Observatory's oldest building, constructed in 1675."

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