Sci­en­tists bid to reach for the stars

The Wharf - - Front Page - By Giles Broad­bent

Move to put work­ing tele­scopes back in the home of astronomy

A stron­omy could be com­ing home. The Royal Ob­ser­va­tory Green­wich is look­ing to turn the Al­taz­imuth Pavilion into a work­ing ob­ser­va­tory for the first time in 60 years.

An ap­peal to raise £50,000 to kick­start the work is close to suc­cess, herald­ing the start of a new era of stargaz­ing on the his­toric site.

The work would in­clude restor­ing and hous­ing two new tele­scopes – a 4in high qual­ity lensed instrument and a 14in wide re­flect­ing tele­scope. These would be sup­ported by ac­ces­sories to cap­ture and stream im­ages of the moon, plan­ets and so­lar tar­gets.

A spokesper­son said: “For the first time since the 1950s we have the op­por­tu­nity to re­store the sta­tus of the Royal Ob­ser­va­tory Green­wich as a work­ing ob­ser­va­tory, trans­form­ing it into a site that can pro­duce stun­ning still and mov­ing im­ages of as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­jects de­spite the light pol­luted set­ting.

“It would use the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to cap­ture in­cred­i­ble mo­ments in our skies so that they can be shared and seen by all as well as be­ing used to gather sci­en­tific data.”

Work would also be needed on the build­ing it­self. Built in 1896, the Grade II listed build­ing suf­fered from leaks and ris­ing damp and hasn’t been used for sci­ence since the 1950s. It would house a new ex­hi­bi­tion area, with the pub­lic able to ac­cess im­agery dur­ing their day­time vis­its.

In fu­ture, it is hoped that the in­stru­men­ta­tion would be ac­ces­si­ble from any­where in the world.

The Al­taz­imuth Pavilion is named after the in­stru­ments it orig­i­nally housed – these mea­sured the al­ti­tude (po­si­tion on the hori­zon) and az­imuth (po­si­tion east along the hori­zon). Cur­rently, it houses an astronomy cen­tre. The up­per floor con­tains his­toric in­stru­ments in­clud­ing the New­be­gin 6.25-inch Re­frac­tor and the Dallmeyer No.2 Pho­to­he­li­o­graph.

The Royal Ob­ser­va­tory, Bri­tain’s first state-funded sci­en­tific in­sti­tu­tion es­tab­lished un­der King Charles II in 1675, al­ready pos­sesses one of the big­gest tele­scopes in the world al­though its use is lim­ited.

The 28in Great Equa­to­rial Tele­scope was com­mis­sioned in 1885. It was moved to an ob­ser­va­tory in Her­st­mon­ceax from 1957 – sig­nalling the end of astronomy at Green­wich. It was re­tired back to Green­wich to mark the Ob­ser­va­tory’s 300th an­niver­sary in 1975.

With the ad­di­tion of com­putedaided guid­ance it con­tin­ues to act as a vis­ual guide.

The Al­taz­imuth Pavilion in the fore­ground

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