Telescopes - Changing our view of the Universe

Royal Observatory, Edinburgh Open Days

As part of the 2003 Edinburgh International Science Festival the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh will be opening its doors to the public on 12 and 13 April (11am - 5pm). Activities, talks and demonstrations will be centred around the theme of Telescopes, focussing on how research using state of the art technology made here in Edinburgh can change our view of the Universe. It is the one opportunity in the year to go behind the scenes at Scotland's world class astronomical establishment.

Everyone knows what a telescope is, but why do they come in all different shapes and sizes? How do they capture light that is 10 billion years old? From 8 metre wide mountaintop giants to hand-held binoculars in your own back yard, telescopes can be used to discover the wonders of the Universe.

Admission to the Open Days is free and includes entry to the Visitor Centre.

Highlights of this years programme include:

Talks: Several professional astronomers and engineers will be giving talks over the Open Days. Titles include:

Crawford Collection: Housed in the original Observatory building is the library. This extensive collection of books, journals and periodicals was founded through the generous gift of the Earl of Crawford in 1888. It is one of the most important collections of historical astronomy texts in the world.

The Starlab Planetarium: Watch the movement of stars and galaxies across the sky. Shows will be run regularly all day.

Society for Popular Astronomy: You can start seeing stars too! Members of the Society for Popular Astronomy will be on hand to give you helpful pointers and advice.

Catch a falling star at the ROE Visitor Centre

The ROE Visitor Centre will be running special activities and events throughout the science festival (15 - 22 April):

Comets and Asteroids exhibition - Children's activities
Comet making workshops - Witness the birth of a frozen comet nucleus
Comet Tales and Stardust Trails - Story telling for 5-12s

Our Roving Astronomers will be touring Edinburgh with their telescopes. Roving Astronomers is a partnership with the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.


Galaxy NGC 628

This 'perfect spiral', galaxy NGC 628 (M 74), was captured by Gemini North, one of the world's most modern telescopes located in Hawaii, using an instrument built by a multi-national team of scientists and engineers including those at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. The image reveals fine details of the galaxy such as star clusters and gas clouds.
Photo credit: Gemini Observatory - GMOS Team.


1. The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh comprises the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) of the University of Edinburgh and the ROE Visitor Centre.

2. The Royal Observatory expects about 2000 visitors over the two Open Days. It plays a major part in the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

3. The Edinburgh International Science Festival includes over 200 events designed to introduce science and technology to non-scientists of all ages. Each year over 12,000 people attend shows, workshops, talks, tours and hands-on activities in and around Edinburgh. More information can be found at

4. The 2003 International Science Festival runs from 11-22 April. The ROE Open Days are on the 12 and 13 April.

5. The Visitor Centre is open throughout the year: Monday-Saturday 10-5, and Sunday 12-5. The Visitor Centre can be contacted on 0131 668 8404.