Coats Observatory is currently closed while Paisley Museum undergoes a £45m transformation project.
A brief history of Coats Observatory
Coats Observatory is the oldest surviving public observatory in Scotland. It opened on 1st October 1883 and it offered visitors a unique opportunity to view the night sky. It has powerful telescopes housed in the observatory dome. This dome can be seen across Paisley and is a very recognisable feature of the town’s skyline.
The idea for building an observatory in Paisley first came about in 1880. A proposal to purchase a telescope was made at the AGM of the Paisley Philosophical Institution. Thomas Coats of Ferguslie, member of the famous Coats thread-manufacturing family, offered to meet the costs involved.
After buying the telescope, the Philosophical Institution realised they would need a suitable building to house it. A piece of ground lying between the High Street and Oakshaw Street had been acquired by Thomas’ brother Peter. Peter had planned to use the land to extend the Museum and Library complex. However, they decided to use this land to construct a purpose-built observatory.
As well as funding the telescope and the building, Thomas Coats provided an endowment of £2000 towards the upkeep and future development of the observatory. Because of this hugely generous contribution, the Paisley Philosophical Institute agreed to name the place ‘Coats Observatory’ in his honour.
You can read more about the history of the observatory and updates on the refurbishment on the OneRen website.
The sky at night
Before it closed for refurbishment, the Observatory was a popular destination for visitors, school trips and anyone interested in the night sky. John Pressly,
resident science curator and observatory officer, led free drop-in star gazing nights in the grounds of the building. With telescopes pointed to the skies, on a clear night, visitors have seen meteor showers, distant planets, shooting stars and the Milky Way.
If you want to keep up to date with what’s happening in the skies above you, John and the team are active on the Coats Observatory Facebook page. There you can find ‘a rough guide to the solar system’, interesting facts about deep space, and updates on spotting stars, satellites and even the Northen Lights.