In Brief

Royal Observatory Greenwich to re-open to astronomers after 60 years

Cutting-edge new telescope named after female pioneer Annie Maunder

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is to become a working observatory again, six decades after light and air pollution forced astronomers out of the capital.

After hosting stargazers for nearly three centuries, Greenwich closed as a working observatory in 1957, as bright lights and thick London smogs made it impossible for astronomers to get a clear view of the skies.

However, efforts to improve air quality and more advanced telescope technologies mean it is now possible to conduct scientific studies from the London observatory.

A campaign to restore the observatory so that it could welcome scientists once again raised more than £150,000 last year, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Following the success of the fundraiser, the observatory has bought and installed its first new telescope in more than six decades.

The Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope is named after one of the first women to be employed at the Royal Observatory.

Born in 1868, she studied maths at the University of Cambridge’s all-female Girton College before becoming employed by the observatory in 1891 as a “lady computer”, making calculations for the observatory’s full-time astronomers, all of whom were men.

She worked in the Solar Department for four years before resigning to get married - a requirement at the time - but continued to work on a voluntary basis, capturing extraordinary images of the Sun’s activity.

During the First World War, she and her astronomer husband “came out of retirement to fill roles at the Observatory that had been left vacant by staff serving in the trenches,” according to the museum’s website.

She and her husband also wrote newspaper articles and books designed to make astronomy accessible to the public.

Her memorial telescope has been set up on the upper floors of the observatory’s Altazimuth Pavilion, which hosts an exhibit about the Sun on its lower floor.

Scientists and amateur stargazers will be able to use the cutting-edge equipment to “study the Sun and the planets in our Solar System, but also look beyond to more distant stars and planetary nebulae”, the BBC reports.

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