ETYM Cf. French observatoire.
A building designed and equipped to observe astronomical phenomena.
Site or facility for observing astronomical or meteorological phenomena. The earliest recorded observatory was in Alexandria, N Africa, built by Ptolemy Soter in about 300 bc. The modern observatory dates from the invention of the telescope. Observatories may be ground-based, carried on aircraft, or sent into orbit as satellites, in space stations, and on the space shuttle.
The erection of observatories was revived in W Asia about ad 1000, and extended to Europe. The observatory built on the island of Hven (now Ven) in Denmark 1576 for Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was elaborate, but survived only to 1597. It was followed by those in Paris 1667, Greenwich (the Royal Greenwich Observatory) 1675, and Kew, England. Most early observatories were near towns, but with the advent of big telescopes, clear skies with little background light, and hence high, remote sites, became essential.
The most powerful optical telescopes covering the sky are at Mauna Kea, Hawaii; Mount Palomar, California; Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona; La Palma, Canary Islands; Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and the European Southern Observatory, Chile; Siding Spring Mountain, Australia; and Zelenchukskaya in the Caucasus.
Radio astronomy observatories include Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, England; the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge, England; Arecibo, Puerto Rico; Effelsberg, Germany; and Parkes, Australia. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit April 1990. The Very Large Telescope is under construction by the European Southern Observatory in the mountains of N Chile, for completion by 1997.
Point of view, standpoint.
An observation tower for a lookout to watch over prisoners or watch for fires or enemies.