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Eventide by Charlie Payne

As clichéd as it sounds, my husband and I utterly fell in love with the Isles of Scilly even before we moved here. I didn’t know much about them until I first visited in 2014, when on a whim we booked a trip to Troytown Farm campsite on St Agnes. We moved here – to St Martin’s – in 2016, a month after we married, having only visited the islands once more after our first trip!

Image by Bruce Frank

Having both lived and worked in London for more than 10 years, despite having jobs we loved, we felt there was something missing, so we decided to take a big leap into the unknown and make a full-on lifestyle change. We left our careers and came to Scilly with new jobs at Scilly Flowers – the flower farm on St Martin’s. I now teach at our small island school – a dream job for me, having worked in education prior to moving here – and I help run COSMOS (Community Observatory St Martin’s on Scilly) in my free time.

COSMOS is a group of enthusiastic amateur astronomers, all based on St Martin’s. Our group was born out of a collective enjoyment of our amazing night skies, and a desire to share that more widely with others. In 2019, after several years of fundraising, we finally opened our community observatory in a prime spot on the island. We have two observation domes, one featuring a powerful 14-inch telescope for deep-sky viewing, the other housing two smaller scopes – one ideal for viewing the moon and planets, and a solar telescope for observing the sun during the day. We also have a small ‘warm room’ which houses computer and imaging equipment, and which we use for holding events and welcoming visitors. As the UK’s most south-westerly observatory, our aim is to be a hub for astronomy on the islands, for our community and our visitors, for many years to come.

Looking to the future and I would like to hope that after the recent pandemic, people are more actively interested in travelling locally, and enjoying the amazing beauty and diversity of the UK, including Scilly. If there’s been one constant that we can look to in all this, it’s the night sky. Scilly skies are a real wonder to behold, especially when there are so many places in the UK where light pollution prevents you from enjoying truly dark skies. There remains nowhere better than Scilly to enjoy the night sky, and long may that continue. That said, we are following with interest Elon Musk’s Starlink project (which you may have seen as ‘trains’ of satellites across the night sky) as, aside from being a distraction when observing, for example, meteor showers, it’s ultimately more potential junk in the sky, and another form of light pollution. We hope that lots more people will share with us the unspoilt beauty of our Scilly skies, and we look forward to welcoming you to our community observatory.


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