Observatory seeks £5m for planetarium

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The Independent Online

The Royal Greenwich Observatory, one of the most important scientific sites in the world, has launched an appeal to raise money for a new planetarium.

The Royal Greenwich Observatory, one of the most important scientific sites in the world, has launched an appeal to raise money for a new planetarium.

The observatory said it needs to rebuild its tourist facilities because of the number of visitors to its 17th-century buildings in London's Royal Greenwich Park, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site. An extra £5m is needed on top of the £10m pledge from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Culture and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

Scientific research was moved from Greenwich many years ago, but the observatory remained a popular tourist attraction because of its historic role in astronomy and in measuring time and space. The observatory said that it received more than 700,000 visitors over the past 12 months and that numbers are rising at a rate of 5 per cent annually.

The National Maritime Museum, which is responsible for the observatory, said the £15m is needed to extend visitor facilities, improve educational resources and replace the existing planetarium with a facility that is technologically more advanced.

"People will be able to explore the heavens with a spectacular technological show supported by live commentary and teaching sessions by the professional staff," a spokesman said. "The programme will change daily to reflect the latest astronomical events and to suit the interests of various audiences."

The development will it to open the third of the existing site which is currently closed to visitors and add new galleries to display the observatory's collection of timekeepers.

Entry to the observatory is free, but visitors are asked to donate a minimum of £1 per person.

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