Observatories: Midlothian

Old City Observatory [OCOE] (1792- ?), Carlton Hill, Edinburgh, established on the prompting of James Short in conjunction with the city council.  The observatory was established in the south tower of the Gothic style building.  It was not completed until well after the Short’s death (1768) and was  transferred to the Astronomical Institution of Edinburgh. They were fund-raising for a new scientific city observatory with the old  structure intended to be a public facility (Bruck 1983, 7-8).

City Observatory [NCOE] (1818-2009 ) Carlton Hill, Edinburgh, designed  by John Playfair in the Classical Style as a Greek Temple. Built with public subscription it was granted royal status in 1822 but no budget to run it.  Government took over funding in 1846, but was still under-resourced and faced closure in 1888. Matters then changed when Lord Lindsay offered the equipment of his Dun Echt Observatory for a new Royal Observatory to be established at Blackford Hill south of the city. Directors during this period were Thomas Henderson, Charles Piazzi Smyth, Alexander Wallace with assistants Wallace, Alexander and Peter Williamson. The building then acquired a new dome in 1895 to house the 22-inch refractor (lens by Wray) purchased (£700) in 1862 from Buckingham’s Wandsworth Observatory.  After the move to Blackford Hill, by the  Royal Observatory, the site was run by Astronomical Society of Edinburgh for most of the 20th century, but has now reverted to municipal status and is run as an art centre (Howse 1986, 70; Bruck 1983; King 1955, 254).

Royal Observatory, Edinburgh [ROE] (1896 – ) Blackwood Hill, Edinburgh, completed 1896  at a cost of £34,000, to house the instruments of Lord Lindsay’s Dun Echt Observatory and his large valuable library. In addition to donation of telescopes and equipment he contributed to the construction of the new facility.  This includeda 15-inch refractor with  micrometer and a  Zöllner astro-photometer a 8.6-inch transit circle along with astrophysical.  In 1932 a 90-cm reflector was added to determine the energy distribution in stellar spectra by photo-spectroscopy. In modern times the Observatory selected to measure and evaluate the photographic plates generated from the 1.2-m Schmidt camera at the Anglo-Australian Observatory. In collaboration with industry they developed two  automatic plate measuring and analysing machines – GALAXY and COSMOS . It was also was responsible for building and working of the 3.8-m UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Mauna Kea. After the closure of the ROG at Herstmonceux, they became home of the UK’s centre for telescope design and operation (Bruck 1983).

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