THE founder of Kielder Observatory has stepped down 11 years after opening the facility.

Gary Fildes announced on Tuesday he was leaving his role at the observatory, recognised as one of the UK’s most popular dark skies attractions, to pursue new projects.

As well as driving forward a new national astronomy project, Gary said he had plans to take up more consultancy work, and continue his ongoing educational programmes with schools, colleges and universities.

Gary said: “Kielder Observatory has been my life and my passion project and to have built it to where it is today is a matter of huge pride to me. However, as the saying goes, keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground and now seems a natural time for me to explore new possibilities, while the projects I have been involved with offer a great springboard.”

Peter Standfield, chairman of the board at Kielder Observatory, said: “Gary’s vision and drive have been the inspiration behind the observatory’s phenomenal success in its first ten years. Gary can rest assured that his Kielder legacy will continue to inspire and educate people for many years to come.

“The trustees of Kielder Observatory wish Gary every success in his new undertakings and look forward to opportunities for further collaboration in the future as his career develops.”