Allegheny Observatory

Allegheny Observatory

Overview
The Allegheny Observatory is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 astronomical research institution, a part of the Department of Physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and Astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 at the University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh, commonly referred to as Pitt, is a state-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of...

. The facility is listed on the National Register of Historical Places (ref. # 79002157, added 6-22-1979) and is designated as a Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 state and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1964 to support the preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA....

 historic landmark.


The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Allegheny City was a Pennsylvania municipality located on the north side of the junction of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, across from downtown Pittsburgh. It was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907...

 (incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association.
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Encyclopedia
The Allegheny Observatory is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 astronomical research institution, a part of the Department of Physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and Astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 at the University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh, commonly referred to as Pitt, is a state-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of...

. The facility is listed on the National Register of Historical Places (ref. # 79002157, added 6-22-1979) and is designated as a Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 state and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1964 to support the preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA....

 historic landmark.

History



The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Allegheny City was a Pennsylvania municipality located on the north side of the junction of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, across from downtown Pittsburgh. It was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907...

 (incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association. The observatory's initial purpose was for general public education as opposed to research, but by 1867 the revenues derived from this had receded. The facility was then donated to the Western University of Pennsylvania, today's University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh, commonly referred to as Pitt, is a state-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of...

.

The University hired Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley was an American astronomer, physicist, inventor of the bolometer and pioneer of aviation...

 to be the first director. One of the research programs initiated under his leadership was of sunspots. He drew very detailed drawings of sunspots which are still used in astronomical textbooks to this day. He also had the building expanded to include dark rooms, class rooms, dormatories, and a lecture hall.

On November 18, 1883, the first day of railroad standard time
Standard time
Standard time is the result of synchronizing clocks in different geographical locations within a time zone to the same time rather than using the local meridian as in local mean time or solar time. Historically, this helped in the process of weather forecasting and train travel. The concept...

 in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, the Allegheny Observatory transmitted a signal on telegraph lines operated by railroads in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The signal marked noon, Eastern Standard Time, and railroads across the continent synchronized their schedule
Public transport timetable
A public transport timetable is a representation of public transport information to assist a passenger with planning a trip using public transport. A timetable details when vehicle will arrive and depart specified locations and may be organised for by route or for a particular stop...

s based on this signal. The standard time that began on this day continues in North American use to this day.

The revenues from the sale of time signals covered Langley's salary and the bills. Allegheny Observatory continued to supply time signals until the US Naval Observatory started offering it for free in 1920.

More recently George Gatewood began using the Allegheny Observatory to search for extrasolar planets as well as to follow-up on claims of extrasolar planets, starting in 1972. This is done using astrometry, which is the practice of measuring the position of stars. In addition to studying the positions of stars on the thousands of photographic plates in the vaults of the observatory, George Gatewood also designed the Multichannel Astrometric Photometer (MAP) for use with the Thaw telescope to measure the position of a target star and its close neighbors on images taken 6 months apart. This technique takes advantage of parallax. If the target star has a companion then it will wobble due to the gravitational pull of the unseen companion. The size of the companion can be measured by the size of the wobble.

MAP is no longer in use and the Thaw telescope is in the process of rewiring and upgrading.

A model of the original observatory can be found in the Miniature Railroad & Village
Miniature Railroad & Village
The Miniature Railroad & Village is one of the largest and most detailed model train layouts in the United States. It painstakingly shows how Western Pennsylvania was from 1880 to 1930...

 exhibit at Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center, located in the Chateau neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, opened in 1991.With a history that dates to October 24, 1939, the Carnegie Science Center is the most visited museum in Pittsburgh...

 in Pittsburgh.

The Lens-napping



A unique event occurred while Langley was the director. After arriving home from a conference on July 8, 1872, observatory staff came to his home in Allegheny City and told him his presence was needed immediately at the observatory. Upon arriving at the observatory he discovered the lens of the 13 inch Fitz Telescope had been stolen for ransom. Langley refused to pay the ransom, and arguments ensued between Langley and the lens-napper. It is suspected Langley knew who the lens-napper was, although his or her identity is still a mystery to this day. Meanwhile the newspapers were investigating who could be the lens-napper, and feeling his identity may be discovered, told Langley he could have the lens. It was never returned by the lens-napper, and was eventually found in a wastepaper basket in a hotel in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Beaver Falls is a city in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 8,987 at the 2010 census. It is located 31 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, and on the Beaver River, six miles from its confluence with the Ohio River...

. The lens had a bad scratch in it, making it useless. The lens was sent off to lens maker Alvan Clark
Alvan Clark
Alvan Clark , born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, the descendant of a Cape Cod whaling family of English ancestry, was an American astronomer and telescope maker. He was a portrait painter and engraver , and at the age of 40 became involved in telescope making...

 to be reground. In the end it turns out the lens-napping was a gift in disguise for after the regrinding the lens was remarkably better than before the len-snapping. In gratitude, Langley added Clark's name to the telescope.

Heavier-than-air flight research


Langley also researched heavier-than-air flight behind the observatory. To study the aerodynamic behavior of different forms traveling at high speeds he built a large spring "whirling arm" to which stuffed birds and wings he made were attached. After leaving Allegheny Observatory to become secretary of the Smithsonian in 1888, he continued his flight research, designing and flying the first, unmanned, aircraft capable of stable continuously powered flight from a houseboat on the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

. His full-size manned Aerodrome
Langley Aerodrome
The Langley Aerodrome was a pioneering but unsuccessful manned, powered flying machine designed at the close of the 19th century by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley. The U.S...

 was funded by the U.S. Army. Two well-publicized crashes of the Aerodrome in 1903 ended his flight research.

The New Allegheny Observatory


The original observatory building was replaced by the current structure, shown in the photograph above. It was designed in the Classic Revival
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 style by Thorsten E. Billquist. The cornerstone was laid in 1900, and the new structure was completed in 1912. It is located four miles north of downtown Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 at Riverview Park. The building is a tan brick and white terra cotta hilltop temple whose Classical forms and decoration symbolize the unity of art and science. The L-shaped building consists of a library, lecture hall, classrooms, laboratories, offices and three hemispherical domed telescope enclosures. Two were reserved for research; one for use by schools and the general public.
The core of the building is a small rotunda
Rotunda (architecture)
A rotunda is any building with a circular ground plan, sometimes covered by a dome. It can also refer to a round room within a building . The Pantheon in Rome is a famous rotunda. A Band Rotunda is a circular bandstand, usually with a dome...

, housing an opalescent glass window depicting the Greek muse
Muse
The Muses in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature, are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths...

 of astronomy, Urania
Urania
Urania was, in Greek mythology, the muse of astronomy. Some accounts list her as the mother of the musician Linus. She is usually depicted with a globe in her left hand. She is able to foretell the future by the arrangement of the stars...

.http://wordpress.phlf.org/wordpress/?cat=22 A crypt in the observatory holds the ashes of two eminent astronomers and former directors of the Allegheny Observatory, James Edward Keeler and John Brashear
John Brashear
Dr. John Alfred Brashear was an American astronomer and instrument builder.- Life and work :Brashear was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, a town 35 miles south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. His father, Basil Brown Brashear, was a saddler, and his mother, Julia Smith Brashear, was a...

.http://wordpress.phlf.org/wordpress/?p=399

The original observatory building was converted into an athletics training facility 1907 and used by the university's football team
Pittsburgh Panthers football
Pittsburgh Panthers football is the intercollegiate football team of the University of Pittsburgh, often referred to as "Pitt", located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Traditionally the most popular sport at the university, Pitt football has played at the highest level of American college football...

. The original observatory building was sold, along with the rest of the adjacent university buildings, to the Protestant Orphan Asylum
Orphanage
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

 prior to the move of the main academic portion of the university to the Oakland
Oakland (Pittsburgh)
Oakland is the academic, cultural, and healthcare center of Pittsburgh and is Pennsylvania's third largest "Downtown". Only Center City Philadelphia and Downtown Pittsburgh can claim more economic and social activity than Oakland...

 section of Pittsburgh in 1909. The original observatory building was torn down in the 1950s and the site is now occupied by Triangle Tech
Triangle Tech
Triangle Tech is a technical school with campuses in Pittsburgh, Erie, Greensburg, DuBois, Sunbury and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It offers two-year degrees in AIDS technology.-External links:*Pennsylvania Technical School...

.

Current work



The main active research pursuit at the Allegheny Observatory involves detections of extrasolar planets. This is done using photometry, which is the practice of measuring the brightness of stars. The brightness of a target star and its close neighbors are measured on digital images taken every 30-60 seconds, and if a planet crosses (transits) in front of its parent star's disk, then the observed visual brightness of the star drops a small amount. The amount the star dims depends on the relative sizes of the star and the planet. The research team consists of students at the University of Pittsburgh whose observations have recently contributed to a collaborative effort to observe a transit of the planet HD 80606 b
HD 80606 b
HD 80606 b is a superjovian planet 190 light-years distant in the constellation of Ursa Major. The planet was discovered orbiting the star Struve 1341 B in April 2001 by a team led by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. Based on its mass, at 4 times that of Jupiter, it is a gas giant...

. The group is also actively contributing to upgrading the Allegheny Observatory.

In 2009, the university's Department of Geology and Planetary Science installed Western Pennsylvania's only seismic
Seismology
Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes and the propagation of elastic waves through the Earth or through other planet-like bodies. The field also includes studies of earthquake effects, such as tsunamis as well as diverse seismic sources such as volcanic, tectonic, oceanic,...

 station, which is connected to IRIS Consortium
IRIS Consortium
IRIS is a university research consortium dedicated to exploring the Earth's interior through the collection and distribution of seismographic data. IRIS programs contribute to scholarly research, education, earthquake hazard mitigation, and the verification of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty...

 networks, in the observatory.

Tours


When the new Allegheny Observatory was designed it was done so with the public in mind, the floor plan included a lecture hall. When the new facility first went into operation, on every clear evening it was opened for the public to look through the 13" telescope but if it were a cloudy night "they would be given an illustrated lecture on astronomy." John Brashear
John Brashear
Dr. John Alfred Brashear was an American astronomer and instrument builder.- Life and work :Brashear was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, a town 35 miles south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. His father, Basil Brown Brashear, was a saddler, and his mother, Julia Smith Brashear, was a...

 once said "the Allegheny observatory would remain forever free to the people" and to this day it has although in modern times the free public tours are only offered a couple nights each week.

See also


  • List of astronomical observatories
  • Samuel P Langley, Allegheny's first director.
  • James Edward Keeler
  • John A. Brashear
    John Brashear
    Dr. John Alfred Brashear was an American astronomer and instrument builder.- Life and work :Brashear was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, a town 35 miles south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. His father, Basil Brown Brashear, was a saddler, and his mother, Julia Smith Brashear, was a...


External links



Video