Stargazing Grants

The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) offered small grants of £1,500 to science and discovery centres to facilitate stargazing events and activities across the UK.

The grants are specifically to enable ASDC members to work together with their local ‘Dark Sky Discovery’ teams, for example by bringing activities to their Stargazing Events, or to run events with them at your centres or via outreach.

Ten centres were chosen by a panel to receive a grant towards hosting a stargazing event with Dark Sky Discovery partners.

These centres cover the length and breadth of the country. Details of events held by each centre can be found here and the final report is available to download by clicking on the icon below.

Stargazing Grants Final Report (PDF)

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The ‘Dark Sky Discovery’ Project

Launched in October 2011, Dark Sky Discovery (DSD) is a pioneering new national and regional partnership of astronomy and environmental organisations led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The partnership leader is Dan Hillier based at STFC’s  Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre.

This recently launched network brings together national and local astronomy groups with community groups, open space organisations and schools to help people of all ages explore and enjoy the night sky. The partnership is very keen to work with Science and Discovery Centres, museums and their multitude of planetaria, and ASDC is therefore offering these stargazing grants.

Whilst a very dark sky is preferable, lots of urban areas are still great for stargazing, and it can even be done in the day time to observe the sun…

For more information about the Dark Sky Discovery project, visit

How to find your local Dark Sky Discovery group

ASDC, in partnership with the Dark Sky Discovery project, have provided you with the contact details of the nine regional leads in England, and the lead partner in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for you to get in touch (these can be found in the information document below). They have been briefed to expect a call and their details are at the end of this document.

ASDC will also offer a grant application conference call at 11.30am on February 9th 2012 to help make your application a success – just dial in and we can advise you. Dan Hillier who is leading the Dark Sky Discovery Project will also be on the call and can tell you more about the regional teams. You can book a space on the call through the form below.

Online event registration for Stargazing Grants Conference Call powered by Eventbrite

Goal of these Stargazing grants

These grants are a partnership between STFC and ASDC, with the specific goal of ‘Supporting the Dark Sky Discovery project across the UK by creating local and regional partnerships between the science and discovery centres and Dark Sky Discovery partners to maximise the opportunities for the UK public to engage with the stars’.

Clearly there is a great deal of overlap with the indoors and outdoors activities already going on in science and discovery centres and their planetaria across the UK. These grants are to enable you to join up with those running outdoor astronomy events and see how you can complement one another.

In particular ASDC members could bring considerable expertise in delivering engaging astronomy-related hands-on activities and events, as well as relationships with diverse audiences to supplement the astronomical equipment and expertise that is already within the Dark Sky Discovery partnerships.

What activities can the grants be used for?

For this programme ASDC members around the UK can apply for small grants of £1,500 to pay for staff time, travel or any other costs to enable them either:

  1. To partner with the Dark Sky Discovery groups to run stargazing events and activities at science centres or via outreach. Activities might, for example, include star parties, meet the astronomer, telescope workshops, sidewalk stargazing, working with girl guides and scout groups, planetaria shows and other activities bringing in research astronomers and amateur astronomers from the Dark Sky Discovery group.
  2. Or, to assist with established Dark Sky Discovery events. This might for example include bringing your public engagement expertise and hands-on materials outside to support a Dark Sky Discovery event, especially important to make a success of stargazing events even if the sky turns cloudy.

In both cases we would ask you to be looking for opportunities to continue this partnership into the future.

Location! Celebrating city skies… and daytime astronomy

The benefits of seeing a clear, dark unpolluted starry sky are unquestionable, but a surprising number of inspiring astronomical experiences can be provided, even from city centre locations. At night even a small telescope reveals craters on the moon and the key features of brighter planets; the phase of Venus, Mars’ polar caps, the moons and belts of Jupiter, and of course Saturn’s glorious rings are easy to see, through even the most light-polluted skies.

You’ll need to find a place with good sightlines, no direct lights and public access (amongst other criteria). For example, centres might choose to host stargazing activities on their roofs, in local parks or via outreach into darker urban areas. Of course, some ASDC centres are also based in rural areas and have great access to dark skies on their doorsteps.

And of course in the daytime, when our centres are at their busiest, our nearest star can be studied both by projection and using special telescopes equipped with solar filters which enable viewers to see sunspots and dynamic prominences. Please note: grants are primarily for stargazing in the dark, although they can also involve a small component of daytime observing if you wish.

Involving Research Astronomers or Space Scientists

Whilst the focus of the project is on developing relationships with the Dark Sky Discovery Project, we would be delighted if you would also like to involve a research astronomer or space scientist from your local university in a way that suits you. Phone the Press and PR departments of your chosen university and ask them who they would recommend for public engagement, or telephone ASDC for advice.



All ten participating centres will be asked to submit a 1-2 page report with a couple of photos telling us about their event, for example who attended, what they did, how many people took part and how they might work with Dark Sky Discovery into the future. ASDC would then put this onto our website and share it with STFC (note: this final report must be proofed and web-ready and all images must be cleared for use on our website).

Grant Payment

The £1,500 grant will be paid to your centre on receipt of a claim form dated 30 March 2012. Please note that we have discussed this project with HMRC and consider this project and these grants outside the scope of VAT. If you need to charge VAT it must form part of the £1,500 and cannot be additional to the £1,500.

We are happy that this claim might be before you have delivered your event. No grants can be claimed after March 30 2012.

The grant agreement with ASDC will comprise of this grant information document in combination with the grant application forms you submit specifying the detail of what you will deliver. 

All of the information on these web pages and the application form are available to download by clicking on the icons below.

Deadline for applications is midnight 21 February 2012.

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