The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which is home to the Prime Meridian of the World and Greenwich Mean Time, is all set to become a working observatory again after almost a six-decade pause.
The observatory is now home to a new telescope that will enable astronomers to study the sun, moon, planets, asteroids, comets, star clusters and perhaps even stars located in other galaxies. The telescope has been named after Annie Maunder who is one of the first women scientists to work at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Founded in 1675 by King Charles II, the Royal Observatory was a working observatory until 1957, when its instruments were shifted to Herstmonceux in Sussex, England, to get away from London’s increasing urban smog and light pollution that restricted astronomers from browsing the stars through their telescopes. It became difficult for the astronomers to take precise readings using sensitive instruments.
So, the observatory was turned into a museum and outreach center to encourage public interest in astronomy. Now thanks to the new telescope, Greenwich will restore its status as a working observatory once again. The telescope has reportedly been set up on the upper floors of the observatory’s Altazimuth Pavilion, which has also undergone a restoration.
“We can recover the night, punch through the light pollution and make meaningful observations,” Tom Kerss, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said. “We live such earth-centric lives. A lot of us spend a lot of time looking on the ground, but the vast majority of what’s happening in the universe is not happening here on Earth, it’s happening in the sky.”
The four-in-one Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT) includes three smaller refractors around a top-end and a 14-inch (35.5cm) aperture Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The pictures captured through the instrument will be made available to the public via workshops and live-streams. Notably, the Royal Observatory has also invited volunteers with research ideas and strategies on using the telescope.