Photo of the Week: Studying the Stars

Posted by Adrienne on July 24, 2013 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, has long been an important place for studying the movements of stars, planets and other celestial bodies. There are many telescopes at the Royal Observatory, including this one:


From Greenwich

This long telescope is in the Octagon Room in Flamsteed House, the original observatory building. The building was designed in 1675 by Sir Christopher Wren (architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London) at the behest of King Charles II, who also created the role of Astronomer Royal and appointed John Flamsteed to the position. The king wanted reliable star charts to help sailors navigate the oceans, and establishing the observatory at Greenwich was the means to accomplish this.

The Octagon Room was supposed to be the main workspace for Flamsteed, where he could observe celestial events like comets, eclipses, and star movements, through the large windows and the telescope seen here. However, the building is positioned poorly for this purpose; none of the walls of the building align with a meridian, so measurements of positions weren’t accurate. Flamsteed had to do much of the work for creating reliable star charts in a small “shed” in another part of the observatory grounds. Presumably, no one had the nerve to tell King Charles this, and the king appears to have thought that all the useful scientific measurements coming from the observatory were made in the handsome eight-sided room. This was probably for the best.

There have been 13 other Astronomers Royal that have succeeded Flamsteed. A list of them (with portraits) is here.

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