Our artistic nature was tested this year. We produced our own first day covers for the stamps released to celebrate 50 years of the Sky at Night television programme and also a calendar using members’ astronomical photographs. In addition, Trina Shaddick designed a beautiful piece of artwork to promote our observatory which was displayed in the museum for many months.
Bill Leslie, Tim Schroder and I trained as Dark Sky representatives and helped with these events during the latter part of the year. We had a stand at the Highland Games and had our open day in the Eastgate shopping Centre. Going Nova and a Highland Science Festival, organised by Maarten, took place and once again involved both Societies. We took part in a Gaelic TV pilot programme about astronomy past and present in the Highlands and were featured in the magazines Sky at Night and Astronomy Now.
This AGM marked the end of my Chairwomanship of seven years (but I now have life membership) and John Gilmour (who had already agreed to be Project Manager for our observatory) took over the role. Alan Thorne left the Club but left us with a beautiful sundial and compass.
We started the year with £47,000 towards the new observatory but had raised £65,800 by December. This included money from members, raffles, sale of the old observatory, various donations and £750 from Lifescan, £1970 from Diageo, £4850 from the Co-operative Dividend Fund and £5000 from the Robertson Trust.
Planning permission and the Building Warrant were granted, the Lease obtained from the NTS and all seemed set until we received our final quotation, which was much higher than anticipated. However, with a great deal of thought by the New Observatory and main Committees, a lot of hard work by John Gilmour and a little alteration to the plans, the cost came within our budget. Fraser and Grant are our contractors and will start building early in the New Year. The dome, the Meade 14” LX200R telescope plus other equipment was purchased from Pulsar.
Rob was given life membership for all the work he has put into the drawings which took many hours, blood, sweat and tears to complete, and seeing us through planning and bureaucratic matters.
The year ended with the knowledge that, at last, our dream of an observatory for the Highlands was about to be realised.