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article imageLondon observatory closed due to smog 60 years ago reopens

By Karen Graham     Jul 2, 2018 in Travel
Greenwich - The famed Royal Observatory in Greenwich, United Kingdom, is reopening more than 60 years after London’s smog and light pollution forced its closure in 1957.
The historic Royal Observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II of England, with the goal of improving navigation at sea and reducing shipwrecks by mapping the locations of stars.
The observatory is also the site of the Prime Meridian, the line that divides the world’s eastern and western hemispheres - as well as being the site of the historic Greenwich Mean Time, which is the basis for the world’s time zone system.
And the observatory operated for hundreds of years - at least up until the 1940s and 1950s when industrialization -which expanded the city's rail systems and light pollution began to interfere with the observatory's operations.
Tourists at the Royal Observatory  Greenwich  in line to take pictures of themselves with the Prime ...
Tourists at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in line to take pictures of themselves with the Prime Meridian monument.
Daniel Case
Louise Devoy, the curator of Royal Observatory at Greenwich, said in a recent interview with the Telegraph, “The observatory really started to wind down in 1948 because … [the] Greenwich Power Station was belching out smoke so the telescopes were becoming useless.”
Added to the smoke was the vibrations from the nearby train tracks and signals from iron-framed buildings that made the sensitive equipment nearly impossible to use, she added.
According to Slate, by the mid-20th century, London's air pollution and thick yellow smog became so bad that traffic was halted at times and theaters had to be closed because audiences couldn't see the actors through the haze. Needless to say, the observatory's telescope was useless under these conditions.
Actually, being cognizant of the deteriorating conditions for observing the night sky in Greenwich, the observatory started transferring its equipment to Sussex in 1948, The new location had darker, clearer skies than London. And in 1957, Royal Greenwich Observatory reopened at the Herstmonceux Castle, and the defunct observatory in London became a museum and outreach center used to educate the public about astronomy.
The Royal Observatory moved its operations to Herstmonceux Castle  East Sussex  England in 1957 afte...
The Royal Observatory moved its operations to Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex, England in 1957 after the smog and light pollution became so bad in Greenwich.
Michael Coppins
Annie Maunder honored in reopened Observatory
In 2017, the Royal Museums Greenwich launched what turned out to be a successful campaign to return the Observatory to Greenwich and upgrade the building. The £150,000 ($200,000) refurbishment was funded by grants, museum members, and patrons, as well as donations from the public.
But the center of attention will be the Royal Observatory’s Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (Amat). The Observatory is honoring an accomplished and tragically, forgotten scientist by the name of Annie Maunder.
The Royal Observatory will honour Annie Maunder  a female astronomer who worked at the observatory o...
The Royal Observatory will honour Annie Maunder, a female astronomer who worked at the observatory over a century ago, with a new telescope (pictured) named in her honour
Royal Museums Greenwich
In 1891, Maunder was the first female scientist to work at the Observatory. She was hired to process data as a “lady computer.” She spent five years calculating and observing at Greenwich, and In 1895 she then married E. Walter Maunder, the head of the Solar Department at the Observatory.
Maunder is not only one of the first science communicators but is now considered a pioneer in astronomy, and astrophotography. When women were finally allowed to become fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916, Maunder was the first to be accepted.
According to the UK's Daily Mail, though long forgotten, Maunder was one of the best in her field, and often regarded as one of the 'forgotten giants' of astronomy, although her work wasn't recognized during her lifetime.
The first image released from the telescope reveals the pot-holed surface of the moon.
The first image released from the telescope reveals the pot-holed surface of the moon.
Royal Museums Greenwich
The Amat is actually four different instruments
Talk about sophistication -but the Amat is one set of incredible instruments. The Amat consists of four different telescopes that perform different functions. And the latest technologies allow these telescopes to be used in urban settings.
The largest can produce magnified views of the moon and planets in our solar system. Another telescope will track and record changes to the sun. The observatory will also be able to look at nebulae and galaxies with a specialized digital camera.
Astronomer Brendan Owens explained to the Telegraph, “We now have filters which completely block out the wavelengths of light from things like street lamps and instead just focus on the hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur dioxide that are coming from stars and planets.”
More about Royal Observatory, United Kingdom, smog and light pollution, new telescope, Science
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