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Visitors are encouraged to look skywards. PAUL LAMBIS meets the men leading the island’s Astro-tourism who are also helping create the first observatory here

As a growing part of Cyprus’ travel industry, astro-tourism sees travellers venturing to extraordinary off-the-beaten-path locations to take in the unrivalled grandeur of our galaxy.

A stargazing trip is, undoubtedly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One can easily view stars when visiting Cyprus, a nature-rich destination that experiences less light pollution especially in the mountainous or coastal areas, or even can gain an interesting educational experience by visiting the island’s first public observatory.

domestic tourism agapios ilia (left) and stelios tryfon (right)
Agapios Ilia (left) and Stelios Tryfon (right)

“Our mission is to introduce the local community to astronomy and assist in establishing a large and active community of amateur astronomers on the island,” CEO of 1010 Asteroskopeion Stelios Tryfon said. “We regularly organise stargazing sessions using the observatory’s 14-inch telescope, including astronomy lectures and events, as well as participating and supplying professional astronomical equipment for major projects such as the establishment of the new Troodos observatory and the Cyprus planetarium opening in the summer.”

Located in the old part of Nicosia, the current observatory operates on the roof of the same building where the astronomy showroom and shop are located and includes a sky lounge where visitors can unwind with a drink while viewing the night-time sky and the cityscape.

The interactive presentation Our Place in the Cosmos: A Journey through Space and Time features telescopic observations of specific night sky objects. “This unique learning experience begins at one’s seat and launches visitors into the depths of the solar system through the galaxies and to the edge of the known universe.”

The building includes a large multipurpose hall below the observatory where exhibits are on display and lectures on astronomy and astrophysics-related topics are frequently offered. “As the island’s future scientists, we are thrilled that both university and high school students have developed a deep interest in astronomy and frequently visit the observatory,” Tryfon said.

Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Agapios Ilia regularly organises stargazing sessions, parties, astronomy and astrophotography seminars at the space centre, and visits schools across the island introducing the younger generation to astronomy.

According to Tryfon, Ilia – who is also the operations officer at the centre – is a skilled and experienced user of all kinds of telescopes, with a keen interest in introducing beginners to the use of a telescope and astrophotography.

Since it first opened its doors in 2007, 1010 Asteroskopeion features an extensive collection of telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes, books, specialised astronomy and astrophotography equipment.

domestic tourism working on the new troodos observatory
Working on the new Troodos observatory

Beyond the observatory, Tryfon and his professional team organise Meet the Universe tours where they provide, install and deploy astronomical telescopes for magical nights of stargazing. “Visitors get the opportunity to view several night sky objects with exceptional clarity under the assistance of our expert guides,” he added.

“Our guides can also point out the planets or other celestial highlights using green laser pointers,” Tryfon told Living. “It is truly a memorable experience.”

According to Tryfon, when the weather permits, visitors can also have a photo taken through the telescope using their smartphones.

1010 Asteroskopeion recently assembled and installed a 5.6 metre dome at the island’s first purpose-built observatory, which is currently under construction in Troodos, and due to open in May. The site of the astronomical research centre on top of a 1,200 metre hill in Agridia, Chandria, was chosen because there is little light pollution, and humidity levels are typically low. “Upon completion, visitors will have a front row stargazing seat, and will also be able to watch phenomena such as the annual Perseids meteor shower,” Tryfon said.

Tryfon and Ilia invite explorers to delve into the fascinating and exciting world of space. Their bespoke astronomy-related programmes are intended at cultivating a lifelong interest in space, nature and the environment in school and university students as well as the wider community. “After an extensive 18-month research, we have discovered the ideal spots for superb stargazing through the innovative programme of astro-tourism, and we are happy to build the first accredited astro-park in Cyprus,” he added.

 

To schedule a tour, visit www.asteroskopeion.com

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