Observatory

Observatory

Overview
An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial event
Celestial event
A celestial event is an astronomical phenomenon of interest that involves one or more celestial bodies. Examples of celestial events include the various phases of the Moon, meteor showers, comets, solar and lunar eclipses, planetary oppositions, conjunctions, and occultations....

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

, climatology
Climatology
Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

/meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, oceanography
Oceanography
Oceanography , also called oceanology or marine science, is the branch of Earth science that studies the ocean...

 and volcanology
Volcanology
Volcanology is the study of volcanoes, lava, magma, and related geological, geophysical and geochemical phenomena. The term volcanology is derived from the Latin word vulcan. Vulcan was the ancient Roman god of fire....

 are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed. Historically, observatories were as simple as containing an astronomical sextant
Sextant (astronomical)
Sextants for astronomical observations were used primarily for measuring the positions of stars. They are little used today, having been replaced over time by transit telescopes, astrometry techniques, and satellites such as Hipparcos....

 (for measuring the distance between star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s) or Stonehenge
Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

 (which has some alignments on astronomical phenomena).


Ground-based observatories, located on the surface of Earth, are used to make observations in the radio
Radio frequency
Radio frequency is a rate of oscillation in the range of about 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals...

 and visible light
Visible-light astronomy
Visible-light astronomy encompasses a wide variety of observations via telescopes that are sensitive in the range of visible light...

 portions of the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

.
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Encyclopedia
An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial event
Celestial event
A celestial event is an astronomical phenomenon of interest that involves one or more celestial bodies. Examples of celestial events include the various phases of the Moon, meteor showers, comets, solar and lunar eclipses, planetary oppositions, conjunctions, and occultations....

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

, climatology
Climatology
Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

/meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, oceanography
Oceanography
Oceanography , also called oceanology or marine science, is the branch of Earth science that studies the ocean...

 and volcanology
Volcanology
Volcanology is the study of volcanoes, lava, magma, and related geological, geophysical and geochemical phenomena. The term volcanology is derived from the Latin word vulcan. Vulcan was the ancient Roman god of fire....

 are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed. Historically, observatories were as simple as containing an astronomical sextant
Sextant (astronomical)
Sextants for astronomical observations were used primarily for measuring the positions of stars. They are little used today, having been replaced over time by transit telescopes, astrometry techniques, and satellites such as Hipparcos....

 (for measuring the distance between star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s) or Stonehenge
Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

 (which has some alignments on astronomical phenomena).

Ground-based observatories



Ground-based observatories, located on the surface of Earth, are used to make observations in the radio
Radio frequency
Radio frequency is a rate of oscillation in the range of about 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals...

 and visible light
Visible-light astronomy
Visible-light astronomy encompasses a wide variety of observations via telescopes that are sensitive in the range of visible light...

 portions of the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

. Most optical telescope
Optical telescope
An optical telescope is a telescope which is used to gather and focus light mainly from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum for directly viewing a magnified image for making a photograph, or collecting data through electronic image sensors....

s are housed within a dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

 or similar structure, to protect the delicate instruments from the elements. Telescope domes have a slit or other opening in the roof that can be opened during observing, and closed when the telescope is not in use. In most cases, the entire upper portion of the telescope dome can be rotated to allow the instrument to observe different sections of the night sky. Radio telescopes usually do not have domes.

For optical telescopes, most ground-based observatories are located far from major centers of population, to avoid the effects of light pollution
Light pollution
Light pollution, also known as photopollution or luminous pollution, is excessive or obtrusive artificial light.The International Dark-Sky Association defines light pollution as:...

. The ideal locations for modern observatories are sites that have dark skies, a large percentage of clear nights per year, dry air, and are at high elevations. At high elevations, the Earth's atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

 is thinner thereby minimizing the effects of atmospheric turbulence and resulting in better astronomical "seeing
Astronomical seeing
Astronomical seeing refers to the blurring and twinkling of astronomical objects such as stars caused by turbulent mixing in the Earth's atmosphere varying the optical refractive index...

". Sites that meet the above criteria for modern observatories include the southwestern United States
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

, Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

, the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

, and high mountains in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 such as Sierra Negra
Sierra Negra
Sierra Negra is an extinct volcanic companion peak of Mexico's highest mountain, the Pico de Orizaba . At up to 4,640 m above sea level it is one of Mexico's highest peaks, perhaps even the fourth highest, though it is usually listed fifth...

. Major optical observatories include Mauna Kea Observatory
Mauna Kea Observatory
The Observatories at Mauna Kea, , are an independent collection of astronomical research facilities located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i, USA. The facilities are located in a special land use zone known as the "Astronomy Precinct," which is located in the Mauna Kea...

 and Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak National Observatory
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is a United States astronomical observatory located on 2,096 m Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Nation, southwest of Tucson...

 in the USA, Roque de los Muchachos Observatory
Roque de los Muchachos Observatory
Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands...

 in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, and Paranal Observatory
Paranal Observatory
Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on Cerro Paranal at 2,635 m altitude and operated by the European Southern Observatory. The Very Large Telescope is the largest telescope on Paranal, actually composed of four separate 8.2 m telescopes...

 in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

.

Specific research study performed in 2009 shows that the best possible location for ground-based observatory on Earth is Ridge A
Ridge A
Ridge A is a site in Antarctica that was identified in 2009 as the best suited location on the surface of Earth for astronomical research. The site, approximately from the South Pole and southeast of Dome A, is situated in a portion of the Australian Antarctic Territory.The site is on the...

 - a place in the central part of Eastern Antarctica. This location provides the least atmospheric disturbances and best visibility.

Radio observatories


Beginning in 1930s, radio telescope
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

s have been built for use in the field of radio astronomy
Radio astronomy
Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The initial detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was made in the 1930s, when Karl Jansky observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of...

 to see space very close up. Such an instrument, or a collection of them, with outbuildings for such things as control centres, data reduction centers, and maintenance are called radio observatories. Radio observatories are similarly located far from major centers of population to avoid electromagnetic interference
Electromagnetic interference
Electromagnetic interference is disturbance that affects an electrical circuit due to either electromagnetic induction or electromagnetic radiation emitted from an external source. The disturbance may interrupt, obstruct, or otherwise degrade or limit the effective performance of the circuit...

 (EMI) from radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

, TV, radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, and other EMI emitting devices. But unlike optical observatories, radio observatories will be placed in valley
Valley
In geology, a valley or dale is a depression with predominant extent in one direction. A very deep river valley may be called a canyon or gorge.The terms U-shaped and V-shaped are descriptive terms of geography to characterize the form of valleys...

s to further shield them from EMI. Some of the major radio observatories are at Socorro
Very Large Array
The Very Large Array is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, some fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, USA...

, in New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, USA, Jodrell Bank
Jodrell Bank
The Jodrell Bank Observatory is a British observatory that hosts a number of radio telescopes, and is part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester...

 in the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Arecibo
Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope near the city of Arecibo in Puerto Rico. It is operated by SRI International under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation...

, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, Parkes
Parkes Observatory
The Parkes Observatory is a radio telescope observatory, 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia. It was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, televised images of the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969....

 in New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Chajnantor
Llano de Chajnantor Observatory
Llano de Chajnantor Observatory is an astronomical observatory located at an altitude of 5,104 m in the Chilean Atacama desert, 50 kilometers to the east of San Pedro de Atacama. It is a very dry site - inhospitable to humans - but an excellent site for submillimetre astronomy...

 in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

.

Highest astronomical observatories


Since the mid-20th century, a number of astronomical observatories have been constructed at very high altitudes, above 4000–5000 m (13,000-16,000 ft). The largest and most notable of these is the Mauna Kea Observatory
Mauna Kea Observatory
The Observatories at Mauna Kea, , are an independent collection of astronomical research facilities located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i, USA. The facilities are located in a special land use zone known as the "Astronomy Precinct," which is located in the Mauna Kea...

, located near the summit of a 4205 m (13,796 ft) volcano in Hawaii. The Chacaltaya Astrophysical Observatory
Chacaltaya
Chacaltaya is a mountain in the Cordillera Real, one of the mountain ranges of the Cordillera Oriental, itself a range of the Bolivian Andes. Its elevation is . Chacaltaya's glacier - which was as old as 18,000 years – had in 1940 an area of , reduced to in 2007 and was completely gone by 2009....

 in Bolivia, at 5230 m (17,160 ft), was the world's highest permanent astronomical observatory from the time of its construction during the 1940s until 2009. It has now been surpassed by the new University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory
University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory
The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on the summit of Cerro Chajnantor, a 5640 meter lava dome in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile...

, an optical-infrared telescope on a remote 5640 m (18,500 ft) mountaintop in the Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world...

 of Chile.

Oldest astronomical observatories


The oldest proto-observatories, in the sense of a private observation post
Observation post
An observation post, temporary or fixed, is a position from which soldiers can watch enemy movements, to warn of approaching soldiers , or to direct artillery fire...

, include:
  • Chankillo
    Chankillo
    Chankillo is an ancient monumental complex in the Peruvian coastal desert, found in the Casma-Sechin Oasis in the Ancash Department of Peru. The ruins include the hilltop Chankillo fort, the nearby Thirteen Towers solar observatory, and residential and gathering areas. The Thirteen Towers are...

    , Peru
    Peru
    Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

  • El Caracol
    Chichen Itza
    Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization located in the northern center of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Municipality of Tinúm, Yucatán state, present-day Mexico....

    , Mexico
    Mexico
    The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

  • Abu Simbel
    Abu Simbel
    Abu Simbel temples refers to two massive rock temples in Abu Simbel in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 230 km southwest of Aswan...

    , Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

  • Kokino
    Kokino
    Kokino is an important archaeological site and a megalithic observatory discovered in 2001 by archeologist Jovica Stankovski in the northeastern Republic of Macedonia, approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, near the village of Staro Nagoričane Latitude: 42.260000N Longitude: 21.850000E....

    , Kumanovo
    Kumanovo
    Kumanovo is a city in the Republic of Macedonia and is the seat of Kumanovo Municipality which is the largest municipality in the country. Municipal institutions include a city council, mayor and other administrative bodies.-Name:...

    , Republic of Macedonia
    Republic of Macedonia
    Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

  • Stonehenge
    Stonehenge
    Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

    , Great Britain
    Great Britain
    Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

  • Goseck circle
    Goseck circle
    The Goseck circle is a Neolithic structure in Goseck in the Burgenlandkreis district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across and two palisade rings containing gates in defined places. It is considered the earliest sun observatory currently known in...

    , Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

  • Ujjain
    Ujjain
    Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

    , India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

  • Arkaim
    Arkaim
    Arkaim is an archaeological site situated in the Southern Urals steppe, north-to-northwest of Amurskiy, and south-to-southeast of Alexandronvskiy, two villages in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, just to the north from the Kazakhstan border....

    , Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

  • Cheomseongdae
    Cheomseongdae
    Cheomseongdae is an astronomical observatory in Gyeongju, South Korea. Cheomseongdae means star-gazing tower in Korean. Cheomseongdae is the oldest surviving observatory in East Asia, and one of the oldest scientific installations on Earth. It dates to the 7th century to the time of kingdom of...

    , South Korea
    South Korea
    The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

  • Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat
    Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...

    , Cambodia
    Cambodia
    Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

  • Karahunj
    Karahunj
    Qarahunj is a village and rural community in Armenia in Syunik province. It is located 4 km south of the city of Goris. The National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia reported its population was 1,303 in 2010, up from 1,254 at the 2001 census.The name Qarahunj is derived from the...

    , Armenia
    Armenia
    Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...



The oldest true observatories, in the sense of a specialized research institute
Research institute
A research institute is an establishment endowed for doing research. Research institutes may specialize in basic research or may be oriented to applied research...

, include:
  • c.150 BC: Observatory at Rhodes
    Hipparchus
    Hipparchus, the common Latinization of the Greek Hipparkhos, can mean:* Hipparchus, the ancient Greek astronomer** Hipparchic cycle, an astronomical cycle he created** Hipparchus , a lunar crater named in his honour...

    , Greece
  • 825 AD: Al-Shammisiyyah observatory, Baghdad
    Baghdad
    Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

    , Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

  • 869: Mahodayapuram Observatory
    Śaṅkaranārāyaṇa
    Śaṅkaranārāyaṇa was an Indian astronomer and mathematician in the court of King Sthanu Ravi Varman of the Kulasekhara dynasty in Kerala. He is believed to have established the first astronomical observatory in India at Kodungallur in Kerala...

    , Kerala
    Kerala
    or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

    , India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

  • 1259: Maragheh observatory
    Maragheh observatory
    Maragheh observatory is an astronomical observatory which was established in 1259 CE by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, an Iranian scientist and astronomer...

    , Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

  • 1276: Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory
    Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory
    Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory, also known as the Dengfeng Observatory, is a World Heritage Site in Duke Zhou Gong's shrine, Gaocheng Town, near Dengfeng in Henan Province, China. This site has a long tradition of astronomical observations, from the time of the Western Zhou up to the early Yuan...

    , China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

  • 1420: Samarqand observatory
    Ulugh Beg Observatory
    The Ulugh Beg Observatory is an observatory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Built in the 1420s by the Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg, it is considered by scholars to have been one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world at the time and the largest in Central Asia before it was destroyed in 1449...

    , Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

  • 1442: Beijing Ancient Observatory
    Beijing Ancient Observatory
    The Beijing Ancient Observatory is a pretelescopic observatory located in Beijing, China. The revolutionary tools used within this ancient observatory were built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty, and later amended during the Qing....

    , China
  • 1577: Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din, Turkey
    Turkey
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

  • 1580: Uraniborg
    Uraniborg
    Uranienborg was a Danish astronomical observatory operated by Tycho Brahe; built circa 1576-1580 on Hven, an island in the Øresund between Zealand and Scania, which at that time was part of Denmark. The observatory was shortly after its construction expanded with an underground facility,...

    , Denmark
    Denmark
    Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

  • 1581: Stjerneborg
    Stjerneborg
    Stjerneborg was Tycho Brahe's underground observatory next to his palace-observatory Uraniborg, located on the island of Hven in Oresund....

    , Denmark
  • 1642: Round Tower
    Rundetårn
    The Rundetårn is a 17th-century tower located in central Copenhagen, Denmark. One of the many architectural projects of Christian IV, it was built as an astronomical observatory...

    , Denmark
  • 1633: Leiden Observatory
    Leiden Observatory
    Leiden Observatory is an astronomical observatory in the city of Leiden, Netherlands. It was established by Leiden University in 1633, to house the quadrant of Snellius, and is the oldest operating University observatory in the world Leiden Observatory (Sterrewacht Leiden in Dutch) is an...

    , Netherlands
  • 1667: Paris Observatory
    Paris Observatory
    The Paris Observatory is the foremost astronomical observatory of France, and one of the largest astronomical centres in the world...

    , France
  • 1675: Royal Greenwich Observatory, England
  • 1711: Berlin Observatory
    Berlin Observatory
    The Berlin Observatory is a series of observatories and related organizations in and around the city of Berlin in Germany, starting from the 18th century...

    , Germany
  • 1724: Yantra Mantra, India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

  • 1785: Dunsink Observatory
    Dunsink Observatory
    The Dunsink Observatory is an astronomical observatory established in 1785 in the townland of Dunsink near the city of Dublin, Ireland.Its most famous director was William Rowan Hamilton, who, amongst other things, discovered quaternions, the first non-commutative algebra, while strolling from the...

    , Ireland
  • 1789: Armagh Observatory
    Armagh Observatory
    Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage, based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. Around 25 astronomers are actively studying stellar astrophysics, the Sun, Solar System astronomy, and the Earth's climate....

    , Northern Ireland
  • 1830/1842: Depot of Charts & Instruments/US Naval Observatory
    United States Naval Observatory
    The United States Naval Observatory is one of the oldest scientific agencies in the United States, with a primary mission to produce Positioning, Navigation, and Timing for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense...

    , USA
  • 1830: Yale University Observatory
    Yale University Observatory
    -History:Yale's first observatory, the Atheneum, was situated in a tower, which from 1830 housed Yale's first and America's largest refractor, a Dollond donated by Sheldon Clark. With this telescope Olmsted and Elias Loomis made the first American sighting of the return of Halley's Comet in 1835....

     Atheneum, USA
  • 1836: Hopkins Observatory, Williams College
    Hopkins Observatory
    Hopkins Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts . Constructed in 1838 by Albert Hopkins, the college claims that it is the oldest observatory in America....

    , USA
  • 1839/1847: Harvard College Observatory
    Harvard College Observatory
    The Harvard College Observatory is an institution managing a complex of buildings and multiple instruments used for astronomical research by the Harvard University Department of Astronomy. It is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and was founded in 1839...

    , USA
  • 1842: Cincinnati Observatory
    Cincinnati Observatory
    The Cincinnati Observatory, located in Cincinnati, Ohio on top of Mt. Lookout. It consists of two observatory buildings housing an 11 inch and 16 inch aperture refracting telescope. It is the oldest professional observatory in the United States...

    , USA
  • 1884: McCormick Observatory
    McCormick Observatory
    The McCormick Observatory is one of the astronomical observatories operated by the Department of Astronomy of the University of Virginia and is situated just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia in Albemarle County on the summit of Mount Jefferson . It is named for Leander J...

    , USA
  • 1890: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
    The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a research institute of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it is joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics .-History:The SAO was founded in 1890 by...

    , USA
  • 1894: Lowell Observatory
    Lowell Observatory
    Lowell Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell Observatory was established in 1894, placing it among the oldest observatories in the United States, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965....

    , USA

Space-based observatories




Space-based observatories are telescopes or other instruments that are located in outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

, many in orbit
Orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 around the Earth. Space-based observatories can be used to observe astronomical objects at wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

 and are thus impossible to observe using ground-based telescopes. The Earth's atmosphere is opaque
Opacity (optics)
Opacity is the measure of impenetrability to electromagnetic or other kinds of radiation, especially visible light. In radiative transfer, it describes the absorption and scattering of radiation in a medium, such as a plasma, dielectric, shielding material, glass, etc...

 to ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays and is partially opaque to infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 radiation so observations in these portions of the electromagnetic spectrum are best carried out from a location above the atmosphere of our planet. Another advantage of space-based telescopes is that, because of their location above the Earth's atmosphere, their images are free from the effects of atmospheric turbulence that plague ground-based observations. As a result, the angular resolution
Angular resolution
Angular resolution, or spatial resolution, describes the ability of any image-forming device such as an optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera, or an eye, to distinguish small details of an object...

 of space telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 is often much smaller than a ground-based telescope with a similar aperture
Aperture
In optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture of an optical system is the opening that determines the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane. The aperture determines how collimated the admitted rays are,...

. However, all these advantages do come with a price. Space telescopes are much more expensive to build than ground-based telescopes. Due to their location, space telescopes are also extremely difficult to maintain. The Hubble Space Telescope was serviced by the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 while many other space telescopes cannot be serviced at all.

Airborne observatories



Airborne observatories have the advantage of height over ground installations, putting them above most of the Earth's atmosphere. But they also have an advantage over space telescopes - the instruments can be deployed, repaired, updated much more quickly and inexpensively. The Kuiper Airborne Observatory
Kuiper Airborne Observatory
The Gerard P. Kuiper Airborne Observatory was a national facility operated by NASA to support research in infrared astronomy. The observation platform was a highly modified C-141A jet transport aircraft with a range of 6,000 nautical miles , capable of conducting research operations up to 48,000...

 and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center to construct and maintain an airborne observatory. NASA awarded the contract for the development of the aircraft, operation of the observatory and management of the American part of the...

 use airplanes to observe in the infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

, which is absorbed by water vapor
Water vapor
Water vapor or water vapour , also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously...

 in the atmosphere. Balloons for X-ray astronomy have been used in a variety of countries.

Volcano observatories



A volcano observatory
Volcano observatory
A volcano observatory is an institution that conducts research and monitoring of a volcano.Each observatory provides continuous and periodic monitoring of the seismicity, other geophysical changes, ground movements, volcanic gas chemistry, and hydrologic conditions and activity between and during...

 is an institution that conducts research and monitoring of a volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

. Among the best known are the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is a volcano observatory located at Uwekahuna Bluff on the rim of Kīlauea Caldera on the Island of Hawaii. The observatory monitors four active Hawaiian volcanoes: Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, Hualālai, and Haleakalā...

 and the Vesuvius Observatory
Vesuvius Observatory
The Vesuvius Observatory is the surveillance centre for monitoring the three volcanoes which threaten the Campanian region of Italy: Mount Vesuvius, Campi Flegrei and Ischia. Founded in 1841 on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius , it is the oldest volcanology institute in the world....

. Mobile volcano observatories exist with the USGS VDAP (Volcano Disaster Assistance Program), to be deployed on demand.

See also

  • Equatorial room
    Equatorial room
    An equatorial room, in astronomical observatories, is the room which contains an equatorial mounted telescope. It is usually referred to in observatory buildings that contain more than one type of instrument: for example buildings with an "equatorial room" containing an equatorial telescope and a...

  • Fundamental station
    Fundamental station
    A fundamental point is the geometric origin of a geodetic network and defines the geodetic datum of a national survey.Some fundamental stations are an astronomical or satellite geodetic observatory...

  • List of astronomical observatories
  • List of observatory codes
  • List of telescope parts and construction
  • Observatory Street
    Observatory Street
    Observatory Street links at the eastern end Woodstock Road in central North Oxford and at the western end Walton Street and the Jericho area of Oxford, England....

    , Oxford, England
  • Space observatory
    Space observatory
    A space observatory is any instrument in outer space which is used for observation of distant planets, galaxies, and other outer space objects...

  • Timeline of telescopes, observatories, and observing technology
    Timeline of telescopes, observatories, and observing technology
    -3500s BC:*The earliest sundials known from the archaeological record are the obelisks ancient Egyptian astronomy and Babylonian astronomy-1900s BC:*Xiangfen Astronomical Observatory, Xiangfen County, Linfen City, Shanxi Province, China-600s BC:...

  • Telescope
    Telescope
    A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...


Further reading

  • Aubin, David, Charlotte Bigg, and H. Otto Sibum, eds. The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture (Duke University Press; 2010) 384 pages; Topics include astronomy as military science in Sweden, the Pulkovo Observatory in the Russia of Czar Nicholas I, and physics and the astronomical community in late 19th-century America.
  • Brunier, Serge, et al. Great Observatories of the World (2005) excerpt and text search
  • McCray, W. Patrick. Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology (2004), late 20th century U.S.
  • Malphus, Benjamin K. The History of Radio Astronomy and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory: Evolution Toward Big Science (1996)
  • Sage, Leslie, and Gail Aschenbrenner. A Visitor's Guide to the Kitt Peak Observatories (2004)
  • Dick, Steven.Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory 1830-2000 (2003)

External links