A Cornish Astronomy Observatory can now expand its research and educational work thanks to help from Avanti Communications and its superfast satellite broadband service. The Tolcarn Observatory, just outside St Austell, is an established centre for education, observation and research. Its mission, to make astronomy accessible to all, through links with schools and the Tolcarn Astronomy Group, as well as research looking for new exoplanets.
The future of the Observatory was under threat until the offer of support from Avanti. Centre Director Dr Grant Mackintosh had been unable to connect the facility to high speed broadband because of its remote location and was relying on a mobile data connection. “It was becoming so restrictive that I had considered relocating the whole facility to Scotland,” explains Grant, an experienced astronomer, specialising in spectroscopy, whose photographs have featured on the BBC’s ‘The Sky at Night’ and ‘Stargazing Live’.
Avanti offered to connect the Observatory to its superfast satellite broadband service and the centre’s communication problems have been solved. “I have tested the service to its limits and it is absolutely phenomenal,” says Grant. “It allows me to connect 12 independent video sources with views of space and broadcast them live, in very high quality, anywhere in the world.”
Grant can also use the superfast satellite broadband connection to remotely control the facility’s telescopes housed in two domes and in the ‘rolloff’ roof observatory. Schools can now have access to the facility and its experts via Skype and Dr Grant can now easily share data from his research work searching for Exoplanets with colleagues in the North America.
“Just two weeks after my initial conversation with Avanti, their professional install team was here and had the satellite system up and running in no time. I have heard people complain about the latency on satellite broadband systems, but I tested it by sending live images of the moon to a colleague in the US and as I annotated the image on screen, he could see my notes pretty much immediately – it was outstanding.”
Andy Williams, ERDF Cornwall Superfast Satellites Project Coordinator for Avanti Communications, based at Goonhilly, adds, “When we heard that the great work of the Tolcarn Observatory was being hindered by a lack of superfast broadband we immediately realised that our service was the perfect solution. It’s great to see our space-based service helping out fellow stargazers but the Avanti satellite solution is also ideal for any Cornish rural business which cannot currently get a fast connection.”