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Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Helwan Khedivial Observatory, Egypt

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage Description

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2018-08-23 15:30:45
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Khedivial Astronomical Observatory, Helwan, Egypt (southern suburb of Cairo)

 

 

Location 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2019-06-17 17:13:05
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Lat. 29° 51′ 31″ N, long. 30° 15′ 5.5″ E, elevation 67m above mean sea level.

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 1
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2018-08-13 14:03:55
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

087

 

Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2019-06-19 13:32:10
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

It was founded in Cairo, (Midan Radkhana = Observatory Square) in 1868, with the emphasis on astronomical and magnetic research. In 1904 it was transfered to Helwan.

Helwan Observatory (Wikipedia)

Fig. 1. Helwan Observatory (Wikipedia)

The Khedivial Astronomical Observatory in Helwan for astronomy, meteorology, actinometry and terrestrial magnetism, was built in 1903-1904, and overlooks a nice landscape over the river Nile. Helwan Observatory is located about 30 km south of Cairo an 5 km east of the Nile. The stony brick building has two stories and a 15-m high square tower with a platform for meteorological instruments. It was first used to observe Halley’s comet.

 

History 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2019-06-19 13:34:04
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Helwan station, Laser Mount

Fig. 2. Helwan station, Laser Mount

Instruments

  • 7.6-cm-passage instrument, Troughton & Simms
  • 10-inch refractor
  • horizontal solar telescope (1957) with Coelostat and spectrograph for the observation of sunspots, faculae and protuberances.
  • blink comparator
  • self-recording Moll microphotometer
  • There was an early 30-inch-reflector (1905), presented to the observatory by the amateur astronomer John Henry Reynolds (1874-1949). It was the first large telescope in Africa. It was used for photographing nebulae, for classification of spiral galaxies, also for recording nebulae spectra, furthermore for observing Halley’s comet (1909/10) and especially for the variable nebula NGC 6729 in Coronae Australis.

In addition there is a geodetic (which send out radio signals), magnetic (since 1910), seismologic and a meteorologic division.  

A large 74’’-reflector (188cm) with Cassegrain and Coude spectrographs was acquired from Parsons-Grubb, Newcastle, England (ordered in 1948), and set up in Kottamia Astronomical Observatory - 60 km east of Cairo in the desert (first light 1964). In addition a 12-cm refractor and a 10-cm Cook camera are combined with the reflector.

Kottamia Observatory dome

Fig. 3. Kottamia Observatory dome



In 1995 Zeiss was asked to refurbish the 74’’-reflector, the new primary (M1) and secondary (M2) mirrors are made of Zerodur glass ceramics.

 

 

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2018-08-23 15:41:22
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The historical building of Helwan Observatory in still a good condition.

 

Present use 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2018-08-23 15:42:37
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Helwan Observatory is still in use - with out stations. There exists also a museum.

 

 

Astronomical relevance today 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2018-08-23 15:43:42
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Since 1960 Helwan Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (HIAG)
Since 1986 National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (NRIAG) - Kottamia Astronomical Observatory

 

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 127
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2019-06-17 15:43:37
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

  • Deebes, H. A. & W. Heileman: Sun, Sand and Stars - Modernisierung des Kottamia Observatoriums.
  • Fesenkov, V. G.: The Scientific Work of the Helwan Observatory. In: Soviet Astronomy 2 (1958), p. 256.
  • Maddison, Ron: The Telescopes of John Henry Reynolds of Harborne, Birmingham, England: An Outstanding Grand Amateur. In: The Antiquarian Astronomer - Society for the History of Astronomy 5  (2011), p. 36-40.

 

 

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