NEW facilities to enhance enjoyment of the Elan Valley’s Dark Skies status are to be provided with the aid of a £67,384 Welsh Government grant.

The successful funding bid by the Elan Valley Trust has been announced by Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas.

Survey work has already been done so that work can start to be completed over an 18-month to two-year period to improve facilities including planetarium and exhibition facilities with measurement and observation equipment for people who want to enjoy looking at the stars away from lighting pollution caused by street lights and other artificial light sources.

Elan Valley Trust assistant land agent Charlotte Harley told the County Times this week that although the work is ready to start it could be up to two years before it is completed.

The visitor centre has been hosting portable planetarium visits for some time now from Aberystwyth University and this will be back on Sunday, February 24, when the Solar System will be the theme of the four free shows.

Martin Nelmes’ team will try to put the Solar System into perspective and present some interesting facts about various moons and planets. He will also cover some of the recent research by planetary scientists and what it tells us about the Solar System. Places should be booked in advance by calling 01597 810880.

It will be back again on Sunday, April 7.

“We intend to maintain our links with Aberystwyth University but, because the visits are supported by the professors and students, planetarium visits are not available during the school holidays ,” said Ms Harley.

“Having our own blow-up planetarium will allow us to have it available outdoors in various locations and for outreach and other uses.

“There will also be space for exhibitions which we don’t have at present and there will also be basically a shelter sited more off the beaten track deeper into the park for dark sky research even further away from traffic or other light sources.”

The Elan Valley was given International Dark Sky status in 2015 making it the world’s first privately owned but publicly accessible park with the entire 45,000 acres protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work there as well for the thousands of visitors each year.

Many of the visitors to the area are amateur astronomers and star-gazers, who need the clearest views of the night sky.