The Sky’s the Limit – Elvaston Castle Country Park

On Friday the 20th of February three members of MADDOG’s plus members from Derby and District Astronomical Society and Ilkeston and District Astronomical Society attended an Astronomy outreach event called “The Sky’s the Limit” at the house and grounds of Elvaston Castle Country Park, just south of Derby. The skies were not kind to us on the night with only the higher magnitude objects being visible and of course comet Ryanair making a frequent appearance due to the proximity to East Midlands Airport.  Because of this the hosts opened two training rooms where presentations could be held and telescopes brought by the different groups could be described to the visitors. The event was attended by around fifty people who were split into two groups each visiting the rooms hosted by Derby and MADDOG’s and then onto the scopes that had been setup up by Ilkeston in the grounds of the house. Derby did a presentation entitled “What you would have seen if the skies had been clear” and we went through an ESA video which is a guide to the Solar System stopping at various points to discuss a wide range of topics such as SKA/MERLIN, Drake equation, Rosetta and Beagle2, Kuiper belt, Tunguska/Chelyabinsk, gravity and leap seconds. Initial feedback from the staff and visitors seemed to be positive, feedback forms were distributed and the staff at the castle will send us any relevant feedback once they have had chance to review them.

Talking to the staff after the guests had left, the future of stately homes such as Elvaston are often in doubt. The running and maintenance costs are huge and whilst the people of Derby and the wider county have allot of affection for them as a place to spend time during the warmer months finding a role for them that generates income that will contribute to their future can be difficult. Events like this contribute in a small way to the future of these historic sites by generating some funds but maybe more importantly raising their profile as a resource that can be used for many different purposes. The site is owned by Derbyshire County Council who are now working with consultants from the National Trust to submit a Heritage lottery fund bid in 2018 for funding that will safeguard the future of the site.

The location was perfect for the event we attended and I look forward to being invited to attend again in the future. My thanks to Tim and Diane for their help during the event.

A really good room to work in although the stuffed badger starring at me all evening was a little off putting!


Sky's the Limit Phase 2 20 Feb 2015