The Royal Observatory Greenwich Goes Back To Studying Sky

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich in London has become a working astronomy center again with the installation of a new suite of telescopes. The Royal Observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II and was a working observatory until 1957. Now, after a 60-year hiatus, astronomers at the Observatory will be studying the sky again.

Astronomy at the Royal Observatory was shut down in 1957, when its instruments were moved to Herstmonceux in Sussex, England to get away from the growing light pollution and the dense smog around the British capital. The observatory then became a museum of astronomy and navigation, with a planetarium added in 2007. With the new telescope, the site will go back to being a working observatory, but its main focus will remain public engagement.

The new instruments have been installed in the refurbished Altazimuth Pavilion, which dates back to 1899. The small building, located in the courtyard of the Peter Harrison Planetarium, was partially destroyed during the German bombing of Britain during World War II. The Pavilion’s upper floor will house the instruments under its telescope dome, while the lower floor will house an exhibition about the Sun that will be open to the public daily.

The five state-of-the-art telescopes will be collectively known as the Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT), named after one of the first women scientists to work at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The array uses several cameras to let astronomers study the surface of the sun, star clusters, and other galaxies. The images they capture will be available to the public via live-streams and workshops.

Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, said in a statement, “The telescopes that we’re going to be opening this summer take us back to being a ‘working observatory’ in the sense that we can do research-grade observations and contribute once again to advancing human knowledge of the universe.” Volunteers with research ideas are invited to use the telescope.