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International Astronomical Union


Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Königsberg Observatory, Russia

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage Description

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2019-06-17 12:11:00
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Kaliningrad, Russia

 

Location 
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    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Lat. 54° 42′ 47.0016″ N, long. 20° 29′ 39.9984″ E, elevation 16m above mean sea level.

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2018-08-05 10:52:29
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

058

 

Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2021-03-14 15:54:39
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

In the middle of the Napoleonic wars, the Prussian King Wilhelm III. wanted to build an observatory in the East Prussian capital Königsberg (today Kaliningrad, Russia). At that time Wilhelm Humboldt (1767--1835) in Prussia promoted extensive reforms in education and administration. Young scientists got the opportunity in universities and academies.

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846) arrived on May 11, 1810 in Königsberg. He trained scholars from all over Europe to become practical astronomers. Many of them were later directors of astronomical institutions in Europe. Bessel was the first astronomer to determine the exact distance of a fixed star.

Königsberg Observatory with heliometer tower, aro

Fig. 1. Königsberg Observatory with heliometer tower, around 1830 (Wikipedia)

In addition to the academic teaching, the focus of Bessel’s work was building an observatory. He chose the site and designed a plan for the architecture, which he had to defend against the different plans of the Berlin government. On November 10, 1813, he was able to move into the completed observatory.

The equipment consisted mainly of used instruments, which the Prussian state acquired in 1809 from the estate of Friedrich von Hahn (1742-1805) of Remplin observatory:

  • 2-inch Cary circle (focal length 33’’) is used for meridian observations; this instrument is now in the Deutsches Museum Munich,
  • 2.7-inch "Mittagsfernrohr" made by Dolland (1.3m focal length), today in Breslau,
  • "equatorial telescope" (33cm focal length),
  • short focal length telescope comet seeker,
  • 12’’ and 6’’ sextant (reflecting circle)
  • Pendulum clock for siderial time.

Heliometer of Königsberg Observatory, 1829 (Wikip

Fig. 2. Heliometer of Königsberg Observatory, 1829 (Wikipedia)

  • The main instrument of the observatory was the 13-inch refractor (33cm focal length), 1819.
  • Meridian circle with a Fraunhofer refractor, Georg von Reichenbach of Munich, 1818 and
  • Heliometer, Utzschneider & Fraunhofer, Georg Merz und Franz Joseph Mahler of Munich, 1829
  • Meridian circle, Adolf Repsold of Hamburg, 1841.

The Bessel zone observations later found their continuation in the Bonn Durchmusterung of Friedrich Wilhelm August Argelander (1799--1875), who was Bessel’s assistant in the early days of zone observation.

The Royal Königsberg Observatory was an astronomical research institute affiliated to the Albertus University of Königsberg.  Königsberg became one of the leading research centers of astronomy in Europe through Bessel’s work.

Also after Bessel famous astronomers like Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander, Arthur Auwers (1838-1915) and Hermann von Struve (1854-1920 ) worked there. Another highlight of Königsberg Observatory was the first photograph of a total solar eclipse, taken as a daguerreotype by Julius Berkowski on July 28, 1851.

The air raids on Königsberg in August 1944 severely damaged the observatory as well as numerous other university buildings.
Russia today tries to keep the memory of the names and the remarkable achievements of the famous mostly German astronomers alive in the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

 

History 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Date: 2021-03-14 15:51:34
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784--1846) succeeded in 1838 in measuring the first fixed star parallax. First, he realized that the parallax he wanted had to be well below 1’’. He also knew that the accuracy of the instruments of that time, like a meridian circle, was far from sufficient. Only his Fraunhofer Heliometer (1829) offered - in addition to the large Fraunhofer refractor with equatorial mounting and clockwork drive in Dorpat - the possibility for an accurate measurement. In addition, Bessel had cleverly chosen the double star 61 Cygni - the star with the largest known proper motion.

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846), painting by

Fig. 3. Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846), painting by Christian Albrecht Jensen, 1846 (Wikipedia)

Königsberg Observatory (Wikipedia)

Fig. 4. Königsberg Observatory (Wikipedia)

Practically at the same time Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (1793-1864) determined in Dorpat with his Fraunhofer refractor the parallax of the Wega in 1837 preliminary values, the royal astronomer Thomas James Henderson (1798--1844) published in 1839 in Edinburgh a parallax value for the binary Alpha Centauri, which he had observed in 1832/1833 in Cape Town.

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Date: 2018-08-10 05:40:52
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Königsberg observatory was severely damaged in August 1944 and never rebuilt.

 

Comparison with related/similar sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-14 15:56:14
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

It is similar to Dorpat/Tartu Observatory, a one dome observatory, nearly built at the same time.

 

Threats or potential threats 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Date: 2021-03-13 17:25:46
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no longer existing, destroyed in WW II.

 

Present use 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-13 17:47:23
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no longer existing.

 

Astronomical relevance today 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Date: 2021-03-13 17:48:06
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no longer existing.

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
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    Date: 2021-03-13 17:49:42
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • Bessel, Friedrich Wilhelm: Bestimmung der Entfernung des 61.sten Sterns des Schwans (1838), p. 65--96.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Die Gründung der Königsberger Sternwarte im Lichte der Akten des Preußischen Staates (1. Teil, bis zur Ankunft von Bessel in Königsberg). In: Acta Historica Astronomiae: Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 1 (1998), p. 79-106.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Die Gründung der Königsberger Sternwarte im Lichte der Akten des Preußischen Staates (2. Teil, von der Ankunft Bessels in Königsberg bis zum Baubeginn der Sternwarte). In: Acta Historica Astronomiae: Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 2 (1999), p. 145-188.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Die Gründung der Königsberger Sternwarte im Lichte der Akten des preußischen Staates. (3. Teil: Die Baugeschichte der Sternwarte) In: Acta Historica Astronomiae: Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 3 (2000), p. 22-67.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Die Geschichte des Heliometers der Sternwarte Königsberg. In: Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte, vol. 6 (2003), p. 90-136.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Äußerungen von Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel in seinen Briefen über die Bedeutung der astronomischen Beobachtung und einige kritische Bemerkungen über das preußische Bildungssystem. In: Acta Historica Astronomiae: Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 10 (2010), S. 218-235.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Das sich verändernde Verhältnis zwischen Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel und Johann Franz Encke - Ein Versuch der Erklärung. In: Acta Historica Astronomiae: Lebensläufe und Himmelsbahnen 52 (2014), S. 159-204.

  • Fürst, Dietmar: Die Geschichte der Sternwarte Königsberg - Glanz und Untergang einer astronomischen Metropole. In: Wolfschmidt, Gudrun (ed.): Astronomie im Ostseeraum - Astronomy in the Baltic. Hamburg: tredition (Nuncius Hamburgensis; Vol. 38) 2018, p. 262-264.

  • Herrmann, Dieter B.: Bessels Bibliothek an der Königsberger Sternwarte. In: Die Sterne. Band 61 (1985), p. 96-103.

  • Lawrynowicz, K.: Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel 1784--1846. Aus dem Russischen übersetzt von Katja Hansen-Matyssek und Heinz Matyssek. Basel, Boston, Berlin, Birkhäuser (Vita mathematica; Bd. 9) 1995.

  • Schielicke, Reinhard & Wittmann, Axel D.: "On the Berkowski daguerreotype (Königsberg, 1851 July 28): the first correctly-exposed photograph of the solar corona". In: Acta Historica Astronomiae 25  (2005), p. 128.

 

Links to external sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 102
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 4
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-13 17:54:04
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • First photograph of a solar eclipse made by Julius Berkowski at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia, on July 28, 1851.
    http://www.daguerreotype-gallery.de/news2011/2011-9/2011-7.html
  • Kaliningrad, Astronomical Bastion (Sternwarte, Observatory), Gornaya ul. 3, https://www.inyourpocket.com/kaliningrad/Astronomical-Bastion-Sternwarte_137415v
  • Kaliningrad, Friedrich Bessel monument, Ul. Galitskogo, https://www.inyourpocket.com/kaliningrad/Friedrich-Bessel-monument_138182v
  • Kaliningrad Planetarium named after F.V. Bessel, Gvargeyskiy Ave., 51a, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g298500-d15238140-Reviews-Kaliningrad_Planetarium_named_after_F_V_Bessel-Kaliningrad_Kaliningrad_Oblast_No.html

 

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