In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union


Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage Description

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 18:37:08
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE), Blackford Hill, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ, Scotland, UK

 

Location 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 18:41:23
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Latitude 55°55’23’’ N, Longitude 3°11’16’’ W, Altitude 146m above mean sea level.

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 1
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 18:34:01
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

277

 

Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:44:06
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Edinburgh Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill (Wikip

Fig. 1. Edinburgh Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill (Wikipedia CC, Karora)



The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1583 - astronomy was part of the curriculum in the context of the Seven Free Arts. Only portable small instruments were used.

The Carlton Hill City Observatory Edinburgh was founded in 1776.

For the new Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE), a site was chosen south of the city, Blackford Hill, and construction began in 1892. The meridian building and the dwelling flats were separated. The architect W. Wybrow Robertson designed the main building, finished in 1895 and opened in 1896.

Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with coppe

Fig. 2. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with copper replaced (Wikipedia CC3, Chi And H)



The Observatory is built in the shape of a "T", but asymmetrically: the East tower is larger and contains the largest instrument, the 91-cm-reflector by Grubb (1930). The two domes, also made by Grubb, are not hemispherical domes but rotatable cylinders. They are made of copper and fit in well with the architectural style, Italian Neo-Renaissance style.

The emphasis of scientific research is on positional astronomy and time service (now controlled by telegraphy, a signal was also sent to the time gun in Dundee and to a clock at Rosyth dockyard) as well as stellar astrophysics, especially objective prism spectroscopy, spectrophotometry, photographic photometry, and photoelectric recording of stellar positions, brightnesses and spectra.
In 1907, the observatory participated in the Carte du Ciel project and started photographic sky surveys. "The entire Carte du Ciel enterprise was over-ambitious for the technology then available and did not repay the effort expended on it." (roetrust.weebly.com)

During the time of Hermann Alexander Brück (1905--2000), thge staff was increased from 10 to about 100.

 

History 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:50:02
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with coppe

Fig. 3a. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with copper cylindrical dome (Wikipedia CC3, Mehmet Karatay)


Royal Observatory Edinburgh, 36-inch (90cm) Casseg

Fig. 3b. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, 36-inch (90cm) Cassegrain Reflector, Grubb Parsons of Newcastle (1928/30) (roetrust.weebly.com)



Instruments



  • 8.5-inch (22cm) transit circle - separate building further west
  • The pendulum clocks were replaced by quartz clocks in the 1960s
  • 15-inch (38cm) Refractor - East Dome
  • 24-inch (60cm) Reflector - West Dome
  • 36-inch (90cm) Cassegrain Reflector, Grubb Parsons of Newcastle (1928/30) - large East tower
  • 50-cm-Reflector (for students)
  • 16/24-inch (40/60cm) Schmidt Telescope (1951--2010) - West tower, now in the National Museum of Scotland
  • 20-inch-Meade Reflector telescope for public outreach since 2010 in a hemispherical dome on top of the teaching laboratories


     

  • 1,24-m-UK Schmidt Telescope (UKST) at Siding Springs, Australia (1973) -- Anglo-Australian Observatory (from 1988 until 2010)
  • GALAXY (General Automatic Luminosity And X-Y) for digitising photographic plates (1967)
  • COSMOS (COordinates, Sizes, Magnitudes, Orientations and Shapes), 1975-1993
  • SuperCOSMOS measuring machine, 1993
     
  • UKIRT (UK Infra-Red Telescope), Mauna Kea in Hawaii
  • JCMT (James Clerk Maxwell Telescope), 15-metre diameter, millimetre- and sub-millimetre-wavelength telescope, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, until 2014.

Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK Schmidt Telescope

Fig. 4. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK Schmidt Telescope UKST, Australia (roetrust.weebly.com)




Directors of the ROE

Directors were initially the astronomer Royal of Scotland,
who was at the same time Regius Professor in Edinburgh, created by George III in 1785:

  • 1785 to 1828, Robert Blair (1748--1828) - first Regius Professor
  • 1834 to 1844, Thomas Henderson (1798--1844)
  • 1846 to 1888, Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819--1900)

     

  • 1889 to 1905, Ralph Copeland (1837--1905)
  • 1905 to 1910, Frank Dyson (1868--1939), then in Greenwich
  • 1910 to 1937, Ralph Sampson (1866--1939)
  • 1938 to 1955, W. M. H. Greaves (1987--1955)
  • 1957 to 1975, Hermann Alexander Brück (1905--2000)
  • 1975 to 1980, Vincent Reddish
  • 1980 to 1990, Malcolm Longair (*1941)

Thereafter, the personal unit of Astronomer Royal and Regius Professur was dissolved
(Astronomer Royal has been John Campbell Brown from the University of Glasgow since 1995).
Directors of the ROE were thereafter:

  • since 1990, Paul Murdin (Acting Director)
  • 1995 to 1997, Stuart Pitt
  • 1998 to 2004, Adrian Russell
  • 2005 to 2012, Ian Robson
  • since 2012, Gillian Wright

 

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:46:14
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with coppe

Fig. 5. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, East Tower with copper replaced (Wikipedia CC3, Chi And H)



The two cylindrical copper domes on top of the East and West Towers were refurbished in 2010.

 

 

Comparison with related/similar sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 1
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 18:34:01
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no information available

 

Threats or potential threats 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:46:41
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no threats

 

Present use 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:47:03
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

In 1965, the ROE moved from the responsibility of the Scottish Office into the new "Science Research Council" (SRC), reorganized in 1981 as "Science and Engineering Research Council" (SERC).
A Visitor Centre is responsible for public events like lectures or star gazing for the public, and also educational events for schools.

 

Astronomical relevance today 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:47:32
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Royal Observatory Edinburgh, Crawford labs of the

Fig. 5. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, Crawford labs of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (Wikipedia CC3, Chi And H)



From 1961 to 1973, the ROE erected the Earlyburn Outstation 30km from the city; this was used for optical tracking of artificial satellites. Seven Asteroids were discovered.

Because of the rainy and foggy weather in Scotland, outstations were used. In addition, a 16/24-inch (40/60cm) Schmidt Camera, a twin of the ROE, was operated inthe outstation on Monte Porzio near Rome until 1978.

The Royal Observatory is responsible for the operation of the UK Schmidt Telescope (1.2m diameter) near Coonabarabran in New South Wales in Australia (1973). But nowadays more important is the cooperation with the important Mauna Kea Observatory (4205m) in Hawaii. There is the British infrared telescope with a mirror diameter of 3.8m (1979).

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:47:59
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • Birse, R.M.: Science at the University of Edinburgh 1893--1993. Loanhead, Midlothian: Macdonald Lindsay Pindar 1994.

  • Brück, Hermann Alexander: The Royal Observatory Edinburgh 1822--1972. Edinburgh 1972 (39 pages).

  • Brück, Hermann Alexander: The story of astronomy in Edinburgh from its beginnings until 1975. Edinburgh 1983.

 

Links to external sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 20:48:25
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

 

Links to external on-line pictures 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 200
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 1
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-07-05 18:34:02
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

no information available

 

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