Moon Palace: A beacon for eco-friendly stargazing
Posted Leeds 2023
Moon Palace, a LEEDS 2023 signature project, isn’t just another mobile observatory. Instead, it serves as a compelling example of marrying sustainable innovation with the practical challenges of mobile design. Originating as a school bus and later transforming into a beacon for eco-friendly stargazing, the project showcases the vast possibilities within green technology.
At the heart of the Moon Palace’s sustainability ethos was the decision to repurpose a second-hand bus. Many vehicles were considered for this purpose, but key was ensuring that it was already equipped to welcome people with access needs. While the idea of converting the bus into a hybrid or fully electric vehicle was considered in the early days of the project, such a transition was found to be prohibitive both in terms of costs and environmental impact.
One of the standout features of the bus is its ability to power onboard equipment, like computers and telescopes, without resorting to the onboard engine or an external generator. This is achieved through an array of onboard batteries, which can be charged during downtimes, allowing for uninterrupted observations when off-grid.
When touring, the Moon Palace runs on diesel. Although this isn’t the ideal solution from a sustainability perspective, it’s a current limitation due to the age and specifics of the vehicle’s engine. The team had thoroughly explored transitioning to Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as a greener alternative, but this option was ruled out as it was unsuitable for the engine in question. Further to this, the same engine system is utilised to heat the interior of the bus during the colder months, ensuring passengers remain comfortable while observing the night sky.