Spend an evening at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE) and take a guided tour of the heavens through one of the largest telescopes in the country. From May to September the Observatory runs Friday evening events on a monthly basis – a great opportunity to not only find out more about the universe but also learn some handy hints and tips for stargazing at home. Visitors to the Observatory can also enjoy a unique opportunity to handle meteorites, learning about these fascinating lumps of space rock which have travelled trillions of miles before crashing into the Earth.
Suitable for adults and children of all ages, a visit to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh is an opportunity not to be missed. Astronomy has played an important role in Edinburgh’s rich history since the 16th century, but it was in 1896 that the Victorian telescope dome we see today was first built on Blackford Hill. Under the supervision of Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Ralph Copeland, the Royal Observatory became a state-of-the-art research centre with a reputation for science and technology, and the home of the world’s greatest astronomical book collection.
Through the course of the 20th century a number of other innovations helped to keep the ROE at the forefront of astronomy and astrophysics. This included the installation of a number of powerful telescopes, including the 14/24-inch Schmidt telescope in 1951.
Today, there are nearly 140 staff and students working at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, many of whom specialize in the design and development of sensitive cameras and implements for use in the world’s most powerful telescopes. In fact, some of the technologies being developed will help to shape how we observe the night sky long into the future.
Although, conditions for viewing the solar system and rest of the galaxy are actually best on a clear winter’s night – due to the longer periods of darkness – a walk up to the Observatory on a pleasant summer’s evening is a much more enjoyable one for stargazing novices. During sessions, visitors are encouraged to take a closer look at the moon as well as observing the sun through the Observatory’s special Solar Scope.
Not surprisingly, the Royal Observatory is incredibly popular during the summer months and so you should look to book well in advance to avoid being disappointed. From Quartermile, the Observatory is an enjoyable 35 minute walk – just the right distance to stretch one’s legs on a nice evening. And the view of Edinburgh from Blackford Hill is worth the walk alone, particularly for those who wish to escape the hubbub of the city for a few hours.
At just £4 per head for adults and £3 for children, the Royal Observatory is also one of the most affordable tourist attractions Edinburgh has to offer.
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