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Hampstead Observatory to re-open after two years

Vantage point near Whitestone Pond was shut down in 2016 because of Thames Water reservoir restrengthening work

16 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

HAMPSTEAD Observ­atory – a window to faraway planets like Saturn and Jupiter and one of Camden’s hidden gems – is due to reopen after a two-year refurbish­ment.

The vantage point, near Whitestone Pond, was shut down in 2016 because of Thames Water reservoir restrengthening work. Hampstead Scientific Society, the charity which runs the observatory, hopes to open it to the public on November 2.

Simon Lang, president and joint astronomy secretary of HSS, said: “We have been open to the public, free of charge, since 1899 and from our current site on top of Hampstead Reservoir since 1910. We’ve only been closed during the world wars and during two major refurbishments of the reservoir, once in the 1960s and for two years until now.”

The observatory normally closes between April and September because of the longer daylight. In darker months, HSS members take it in turns to show the public the moon, planets “and other celestial delights”.

Special events are staged for unusual astronomical events, such as lunar and solar eclipses or comets. HSS also runs scientific lectures at St John’s Church, in Church Row.

Initially, Thames Water had said the site would be closed between July 2016 and March 2017, but the work has taken much longer than anticipated, the society said.

In March, many homes were left without water for days as a result of a “booster problem with Hampstead reservoir”. The society is looking for volunteer “demonst­rators” to work six to eight two-hour stints over four months.

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