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Astronomy could be coming home. The Royal Observatory Greenwich is looking to turn the Altazimuth Pavilion into a working observatory for the first time in 60 years.

An appeal to raise £50,000 to kickstart the work is close to success, heralding the start of a new era of stargazing on the historic site.

The work would include restoring and housing two new telescopes – a 4in high quality lensed instrument and a 14in wide reflecting telescope. These would be supported by accessories to capture and stream images of the moon, planets and solar targets. 

A spokesperson said: “For the first time since the 1950s we have the opportunity to restore the status of the Royal Observatory Greenwich as a working observatory, transforming it into a site that can produce stunning still and moving images of astronomical objects despite the light polluted setting. 

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“It would use the latest technology to capture incredible moments in our skies so that they can be shared and seen by all as well as being used to gather scientific data.”

Work would also be needed on the building itself. Built in 1896, the Grade II listed building suffered from leaks and rising damp and hasn’t been used for science since the 1950s. It would house a new exhibition area, with the public able to access imagery during their daytime visits. 

In future, it is hoped that the instrumentation would be accessible from anywhere in the world. 

Astronomy is coming home

The Altazimuth Pavilion is named after the instruments it originally housed – these measured the altitude (position on the horizon) and azimuth (position east along the horizon). Currently, it houses an astronomy centre. The upper floor contains historic instruments including the Newbegin 6.25-inch Refractor and the Dallmeyer No.2 Photoheliograph.

The Royal Observatory, Britain’s first state-funded scientific institution established under King Charles II in 1675, already possesses one of the biggest telescopes in the world although its use is limited. 

The 28in Great Equatorial Telescope was commissioned in 1885. It was moved to an observatory in Herstmonceax from 1957 – signalling the end of astronomy at Greenwich. It was retired back to Greenwich to mark the Observatory’s 300th anniversary in 1975.

With the addition of computed-aided guidance it continues to act as a visual guide.