On Monday morning I made the long, steep walk (I’m getting a bus next time!) up to Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory for a behind the scenes visit to the UK Astronomy Centre. Fortunately, the trek was worth it as what followed was an illuminating and quite fascinating insight into what goes on inside the Royal Observatory, besides simply looking at the stars.
In fact, there aren’t any functional telescopes in the observatory any more – today it is split between a physics and astronomy-based research centre that is part of the University, and engineering facilities where the latest state-of-the-art extra-terrestrial satellites and telescopes are constructed.
The tour involved two brief lectures on the JWST which will soon replace the famous Hubble telescope, and the EELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) which will be built before 2020. After these tours, we were shown around the workshops, labs and the magnificent Crawford Collection; a collection of books from the history of astronomy that date back as far as the thirteenth century.
It became clear during the tour that while the observatory has an extremely rich past, its future is equally as exciting. I was amazed by the fact that here in Edinburgh work is being done that will shape the future of scientific discovery and potentially bring to light current mysteries about universe.