A selection of observatories, in various parts of the World, that I have enjoyed visiting:


Sydney Observatory


Near the Harbour Bridge, the Observatory was founded in 1858. Its main function was timekeeping, meteorology and navigation. However, a large (29 cm) refractor was installed in 1874, enabled serious astronomical studies.

The observatory is now part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Photo taken in 2012.

McDonald Observatory

Mc Donald Obs

Lying in the Davis Mountains of west Texas, McDonald Observatory was founded in the 1930s by the Universities of Chicago and Texas.

The Otto Struve telescope (2.1 m) was the second largest in the world when completed in 1939. The Harlan Smith (2.7 m) telescope was added in 1968.

Highlight discoveries included Oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars and Methane on Pluto. Lunar ranging, the Johnson Photometric system and the de Vaucouleurs classification of galaxies were also developed here.

As well as other smaller telecopes, the observatory hosts the Hobby-Eberly (1997) telescope for spectroscopy and surveys. Its 91 hexagonal mirrors have a light grasp of 9 m.

Photo of the Otto Struve telescope was taken in 2015.

Daniel Observatory

Daniel Obs

Near the city of Greenville, the Charles E. Daniel Observatory houses a 58 cm refractor since 1986. Originally at the Princeton Observatory, this was the telescope featured in the 1938 War of the Worlds dramatisation.

The observatory is part of Roper Mountain Science Center and is now used for education. Photo taken in 2014 by S.Beck.

Nice Observatory


Located on Mont Gros (325 m) overlooking the city, the Observatory was founded in 1881. The 77 cm refractor, the Grand Lunette, is the pride of place of the instruments.

The observatory is now part of Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur. Photo taken in 2014.

Mount Wilson Observatory

Mt Wilson

The observatory at Mount Wilson was founded as a solar observatory 1904. The towers house the 60 m (at left) and 46m focal length solar telescopes.

It is located in the mountains of southern California, above Pasadena. Photo taken in 2012.

Also here are the famous 1.5 m and 2.5 m reflectors.

Armagh Observatory


Founded and funded in 1789 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, the Observatory at Armagh, N.Ireland, represents an interesting mixture of historic and current astronomical research.

Armagh was the second observatory to be built in Ireland - the first being Dunsink near Dublin, which was completed a few years earlier. As with other observatories of the period, the main work was determining accurate positions of the stars and planets which was done through the use of transit instruments, meridian circles and accurate clocks.

The various observatory domes house a bevy of interesting historical and modern telescopes including the Troughton Equatorial Telescope which could perform the functions of a transit instrument, a quadrant and an equatorial all rolled into one, a 10" refractor and a 15" reflector both made by Thomas Grubb of Dublin and a 18" Calver telescope. These last three have been beautifully restored in recent years.

The latest addition, installed in October 2010 and officially opened in a ceremony on March 4, 2011, is a brand new PlaneWave robotic telescope. Operated under the direction of staff astronomer Simon Jeffery, it will begin making observations of variable stars, solar system objects and other targets very soon. With its 43 cm primary mirror and sensitive CCD camera it will make a great addition to the research goals of the Observatory.

Today, around 25 astronomers are actively studying Stellar Astrophysics, Solar Physics, Solar System astronomy - particularly asteroids, comets, and meteor streams, and the Earth's climate from Armagh Observatory.

Text and Photo (2011) by S.Beck.

Very Large Array


The Very Large Array is an array of twenty seven 25 metre dishes (arranged in the shape of a 'Y') used in Radio Astronomy.

It was inaugurated in 1980.

The array is situated on the high plains west of Soccoro, New Mexico, USA. Photo taken in 2005.

Australia Telescope Compact Array


The Australia Telescope Compact Array is an array of six 22 metre dishes used in Radio Astronomy.

It was opened in 1988, the year of the Austrlian Bicentenary. It can achieve a 5" resolution at a wavelength of 21 cm, the famous Hydrogen Line used to map spiral arms in galaxies. When linked up with other telescopes on the continent, resolution in the milli-arcsec range can be acheived.

Among the objects studied were SN 1987A in the LMC, the centre of the Galaxy, Active Galaxies, Jets in Galaxies and Pulsars.

The array lies west of Narrabi, New South Wales, Australia. Photo taken in 2002.

Parkes Observatory


The 64 metre at Parkes is a completely steerable alt-azimuth dish. It is the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. It was inaugurated in October 1961.

This dish completed two surveys: at 408 MHz during the mid 1960s and at 2.7 GHz during the early 1970s. A whole range of radio objects from Quasars to Pulsars have been observed over the years. The famous dish has also been involved in space communications, most notably for NASA during the first manned moon landing of Apollo 11 in July 1969. In 2005 it relayed images and data from the Huygens probe during its landing on Titan during the Cassini Huygens Mission (NASA-ESA).

The observatory is situated north of the town of Parkes, which is in the outback of New South Wales, Australia. Photo taken in 2002.

Palomar Observatory


The 5 metre (or 200 inch) reflector at Palomar for many years epitomised the largest telescope in the world. First light occured in 1948.

It is situated in the mountains of southern California, north-east of San Diego. Photo taken in 2006.

There is also the famous 1.2m Oschin Schmidt telescope at the observatory.

Lick Observatory

Lick Obs

Opened in 1888, Lick Observatory has some famous telescopes: 36 inch Lick Refractor; 36 inch Crossley Reflector and the Shane 3m Reflector.

It is situated on Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California. Photo taken in 2004.

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