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International Astronomical Union


Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San Fernando, Cádiz, Spain

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage Description

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2021-03-10 05:58:07
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Royal Institute and Astronomical Observatory of the Spanish Navy, San Fernando, Província de Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain

 

Location 
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Latitude 36°27’54’’N, Longitude 6°12’21’’W, 30m

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

983

 

Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2021-04-02 20:48:30
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Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San

Fig. 1. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San Fernando (Wikipedia)




The Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San Fernando is the oldest observatory in Spain and one of the oldest state observatories in the world.
In 1753 the Royal Observatory was founded by the Jorge Juan y Santacilia (1713--1773), Head of the Naval Academy in the Andalusian port city of Cádiz, in order to teach future naval officers about astronomy - essential for navigation.

The observatory is designed by the Marquis of Ureña in neoclassical style - a distinguished military architecture to house the headquarters of the Cadiz Maritime Department. The astronomical observatory is a singular landmark of enlightened Spain, not only for its scientific achievements, but also for its architectural values (Martinez  Monttel 1989, p. 9).

Emblem of the Royal Institute and Observatory of t

Fig. 2. Emblem of the Royal Institute and Observatory of the Spanish Navy (Wikipedia 3, Heralder) (Wikipedia)

The main task was time keeping, setting the official time in Spain. As a naval observatory, located on the hill of Torre Alta, from which you could see the ocean, it operated a time ball (1878), announcing the exact time to the ships for navigation (for synchronizing their clocks).
The astronomy department has been used for the observation and theoretical study of the positions of the stars and celestial bodies in the solar system; the results, the ephemeris for the Navy were published in the Astronomical Yearbook and Astronomical Ephemeris.
The astronomy department is divided into three areas: area-wide astrometry, solar astronomy and meridian astrometry.

The research topics were besides astronomy and time keeping also earth sciences, geophysics, geomagnetism, seimology, meteorology and satellite services (tracking space junk with lasers). The Geophysics Department has been in continuous operation since 1879.

In 1790, the Real Observatorio de Madrid was built in order to take over the purely astronomical work of San Fernando.

 

History 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-04-02 21:19:36
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Federico Ruiz: View of the Real Instituto y Observ

Fig. 3. Federico Ruiz: View of the Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San Fernando in the mid-19th century (El Museo Universal, 1861) (Wikipedia 4, Sobreira)

 



Instruments



  • Mural circle, Thomas Jones (1834)
  • Theodolit, Ertel & Sohn, Munich (1880)
  • Transit instrument
  • Meridian circle, Troughton & Simms (1859)

  • Meridian circle, Grubb & Parsons of Newcastle (1948)
    Carlsberg Automatic Meridian Circles (CAMC) (1987-1995), renamed Automatic Meridian Circle of San Fernando (CMASF) - moved in 1996 to Carlos Ulrrico Cesco Observatory, Observatorio Astronómico Félix Aguilar (OAFA), San Juan, Argentina

  • Astrograph, Gautier (Carte du Ciel and Astrographic Catalogue - in collaboration with the Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomía (CIDA), Venezuela)
  • Astrolabe, Danjon


Real Instituto y Observatorio Astronómico de la A

Fig. 4. Real Instituto y Observatorio Astronómico de la Armada de San Fernando (1886) (Wikipedia)

 



Cádiz Meridian



The Cádiz meridian, also known as the Zero meridian, governed all Spanish cartography from 1753 to 1884, when an international conference held in Washington established Greenwich as the first universal meridian. This meridian was established in 1753 thanks to the creation of the Royal Jorge Juan Observatory, which was  
transfered to San Fernando in 1798, named Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada de San Fernando. This transfer forced a small change of the meridian: from 1801 the reference meridian for Spanish ships was that of San Fernando. The distance between the Cádiz meridian and the Greenwich meridian is 6º17’15’’ W.

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2021-04-02 21:20:27
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Real Instituto y Observatorio Astronómico de la A

Fig. 4. Real Instituto y Observatorio Astronómico de la Armada de San Fernando (Wikipedia 3, Normalita)

 

This oldest observatory in Spain is in perfect condition, but the appearance of the original building has undergone transformations throughout history.

It preserves a collection of ancient instruments an important historical heritage. Remarkable is the library comprising over 30,000 volumes, especially a cartographic collection, published between the 15th and 18th/19th centuries - a valuable scientific heritage.

 

Comparison with related/similar sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-03-10 06:01:33
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The observatory is comparable with naval observatories time ball like Greenwich or the United States Naval Observatory Washington.

 

Threats or potential threats 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-03-10 06:01:59
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no threats

 

Present use 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-03-10 06:02:28
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The observatory is still in astronomical use. It is today a modern research institute that is dedicated to astronomy as well as geophysics and also provides the national time service.

 

Astronomical relevance today 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-03-10 06:02:55
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The observatory uses laser technology for tracking space junk.

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
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    Date: 2021-04-02 21:21:36
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • Atienza, Antonio: La bajada de la bola del Observatorio se escucha por martinete. Andalucía Información (2018-06-30) - in Spanish.

  • González González, Francisco J.: Instrumentos científicos del Observatorio de San Fernando en los siglos XVIII, XIX y XX. Madrid: Ministerio de Defensa 1995, p. 1-286.

  • González González, Francisco J. & Manuel Berrocoso: Instrumentos y trabajos geodésicos de la Armada: La Comisión Hidrográfica de la Península y el Observatorio de San Fernando (1859--1887). Madrid: Asclepio, Revista de Historia de la Medicina y de la Ciencia XLVII (1995), fasc. 1, p. 33-52.

  • González González, Francisco J.: Péndulos astronómicos y cronómetros marinos de la Armada: El Observatorio de San Fernando y los antecedentes del Patrimonio Nacional de Tiempo (1753-1957). Madrid: Asclepio, Revista de Historia de la Medicina y de la Ciencia L (1998), fasc. 1, p. 175-198.

  • González González, Francisco J.: La colección de instrumentos antiguos del Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada. Madrid: Arbor CLXIV (1999), 647-648, p. 329-361.

  • González González, Francisco José: Ciencia y marina en la Espana del siglo XlX: el Observatorio de San Fernando (1831-1924). Madrid 2004.

  • González González, Francisco José: El Real Observatorio de la Armada. Madrid 2005.

  • Martinez  Monttel, Luis F.: El Real Observatorio Astronómico de San Fernando (1769--1869). Sevilla 1989.

  • Pontevedra, Silvia: The Spanish observatory tracking space junk with lasers. In: El Pais (November 2016) - in English.

  • Witt, Volker: San Fernando: Spaniens älteste Sternwarte. In: Spektrum Magazin (9.05.2017).

 

Links to external sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-04-02 21:24:10
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • ARMADA Escudo de la Armada ESPAÑOLA,
    Real Observatorio de la Armada,
    https://armada.defensa.gob.es/ArmadaPortal/page/Portal/ArmadaEspannola/cienciaobservatorio/prefLang-es/
  • Real Observatorio de la Armada, Colección de instrumentos antiguos,
    https://armada.defensa.gob.es/ArmadaPortal/page/Portal/ArmadaEspannola/cienciaobservatorio/prefLang-es/11Coleccion
  • Meridiano de Cádiz,
    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meridiano_de_Cádiz
  • Museo Naval de San Fernando,
    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museo_Naval_de_San_Fernando
  • Torre Alta,
    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torre_Alta

 

Links to external on-line pictures 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 165
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 1
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 03:41:07
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no information available

 

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