|Organization||University of Pittsburgh|
|Established||February 15, 1859|
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The Allegheny Observatory is an American astronomical research institution, a part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. The facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (ref. # 79002157, added June 22, 1979)and is designated as a Pennsylvania state and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation historic landmark.
The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (incorporated into the City of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association. The observatory's initial purpose was for general public education as opposed to research, but by 1867 the revenues derived from this had receded. The facility was then donated to the Western University of Pennsylvania, today known as the University of Pittsburgh.
The University hired Samuel Pierpont Langley to be the first director. One of the research programs initiated under his leadership was of sunspots. He drew very detailed drawings of sunspots which are still used in astronomical textbooks to this day. He also had the building expanded to include dark rooms, class rooms, dormitories, and a lecture hall.
In 1869, Langley created income for observatory by selling subscription service to time that was accurately determined by astronomical measurements and transmitted over telegraphs to customers. The Pennsylvania Railroad was the most influential subscriber to the "Allegheny Time" system. The Allegheny Observatory's service is believed to have been the first regular and systematic system of time distribution to railroads and cities as well as the origin of the modern standard time system.By 1870, the Allegheny Time service extended over 2,500 miles with 300 telegraph offices receiving time signals. On November 18, 1883, the first day of railroad standard time in North America, the Allegheny Observatory transmitted a signal on telegraph lines operated by railroads in Canada and the United States. The signal marked noon, Eastern Standard Time, and railroads across the continent synchronized their schedules based on this signal. The standard time that began on this day continues in North American use to this day.
The revenues from the sale of time signals covered Langley's salary and the bills. Allegheny Observatory continued to supply time signals until the US Naval Observatory started offering it for free in 1920.
More recently George Gatewood began using the Allegheny Observatory to search for extrasolar planets as well as to follow up on claims of extrasolar planets, starting in 1972.This is done using astrometry, which is the practice of measuring the position of stars. In addition to studying the positions of stars on the thousands of photographic plates in the vaults of the observatory, George Gatewood also designed the Multichannel Astrometric Photometer (MAP) for use with the Thaw telescope to measure the position of a target star and its close neighbors on images taken 6 months apart. This technique takes advantage of parallax. If the target star has a companion then it will wobble due to the gravitational pull of the unseen companion. The size of the companion can be measured by the size of the wobble.
MAP is no longer in use and the Thaw telescope is in the process of rewiring and upgrading.
A model of the original observatory can be found in the Miniature Railroad & Village exhibit at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and in 2012 a documentary film was released covering the observatory's history.
Langley was the director when he returned home in Allegheny City on July 8, 1872, following a conference. Observatory staff advised him that the lens of the 13 inch Fitz Telescope had been taken for ransom which Langley refused to pay; an argument with the unknown lens-napper ensued without resolve. It has been speculated that Langley knew the identity of the lens-napper, his or her identity is still a mystery. The lens-napper thought that with the involvement of the newspapers investigating the incidents his identity may be discovered so told Langley he could have back the lens. No clue was given as to its location but it was eventually found in a Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, hotel wastepaper basket. It being scratched made it useless so it was re-ground by lens maker Alvan Clark. When it was reinstalled the clarity was improved so the lens-napping benefited the observatory. In gratitude, Langley added Clark's name to the telescope.
Langley also researched heavier-than-air flight behind the observatory. To study the aerodynamic behavior of different forms traveling at high speeds he built a large spring "whirling arm" to which stuffed birds and wings he made were attached. After leaving Allegheny Observatory to become secretary of the Smithsonian in 1888, he continued his flight research, designing and flying the first, unmanned, aircraft capable of stable continuously powered flight from a houseboat on the Potomac River. His full-size manned Aerodrome was funded by the U.S. Army. Two well-publicized crashes of the Aerodrome in 1903 ended his flight research.
The original observatory building was replaced by the current structure, shown in the photograph above. It was designed in the Classic Revival style by Thorsten E. Billquist. The cornerstone was laid in 1900, and the new structure was completed in 1912. It is located four miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at Riverview Park. The building is a tan brick and white terra cotta hilltop temple whose Classical forms and decoration symbolize the unity of art and science. The L-shaped building consists of a library, lecture hall, classrooms, laboratories, offices, and three hemispherical domed telescope enclosures. Two were reserved for research; one for use by schools and the general public. The core of the building is a small rotunda, housing an opalescent glass window depicting the Greek muse of astronomy, Urania,designed by artist Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast. A crypt in the basement of the observatory holds the ashes of two eminent astronomers and former directors of the Allegheny Observatory, James Edward Keeler and John Brashear. In addition, the crypt holds the remains of Brashear's wife Phoebe and Keeler's wife Cora Matthews Keeler and son Henry Bowman Keeler.
The original observatory building was converted into an athletics training facility in 1907 and used by the university's football team.The original observatory building was sold, along with the rest of the adjacent university buildings, to the Protestant Orphan Asylum prior to the move of the main academic portion of the university to the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in 1909. The original observatory building was torn down in the 1950s and the site is now occupied by Triangle Tech.
The main active research pursuit at the Allegheny Observatory involves detections of extrasolar planets.This is done using photometry, which is the practice of measuring the brightness of stars. The brightness of a target star and its close neighbors are measured on digital images taken every 30–60 seconds, and if a planet crosses (transits) in front of its parent star's disk, then the observed visual brightness of the star drops a small amount. The amount the star dims depends on the relative sizes of the star and the planet. The research team consists of students at the University of Pittsburgh whose observations have recently contributed to a collaborative effort to observe a transit of the planet HD 80606 b. The group is also actively contributing to upgrading the Allegheny Observatory.
In 2009, the university's Department of Geology and Planetary Science installed Western Pennsylvania's only seismic station, which is connected to IRIS Consortium networks, in the observatory.
When the new Allegheny Observatory was designed it was done with the public in mind; the floor plan included a lecture hall. When the new facility first went into operation, on every clear evening it was opened for the public to look through the 13" telescope but if it were a cloudy night "they would be given an illustrated lecture on astronomy." John Brashear once said "the Allegheny observatory would remain forever free to the people" and to this day it hasalthough in modern times the free public tours are only offered a couple nights each week.
Samuel Pierpont Langley was an American astronomer, physicist, inventor of the bolometer and aviation pioneer. In addition to becoming the third secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, he was also a professor of astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the director of the Allegheny Observatory.
The Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by the University of California. It is on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose, California, United States. The observatory is managed by the University of California Observatories, with headquarters on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, where its scientific staff moved in the mid-1960s. It is named after James Lick.
James Edward Keeler was an American astronomer. He was an early observer of galaxies using photography, as well as the first to show observationally that the rings of Saturn do not rotate as a solid body.
Standard time is the synchronization of clocks within a geographical region to a single time standard, rather than a local mean time standard. Generally, standard time agrees with the local mean time at some meridian that passes through the region, often near the center of the region. Historically, standard time was established during the 19th century to aid weather forecasting and train travel. Applied globally in the 20th century, the geographical regions became time zones. The standard time in each time zone has come to be defined as an offset from Universal Time. A further offset is applied for part of the year in regions with daylight saving time.
Frank Washington Very was a U.S. astronomer, astrophysicist, and meteorologist. He was born at Salem, Massachusetts, and educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1873) where he taught physics after his graduation.
John Alfred Brashear was an American astronomer and instrument builder.
Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, part of the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU), incorporates the Anglo-Australian Telescope along with a collection of other telescopes owned by the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, and other institutions. The observatory is situated 1,165 metres (3,822 ft) above sea level in the Warrumbungle National Park on Mount Woorat, also known as Siding Spring Mountain. Siding Spring Observatory is owned by the Australian National University (ANU) and is part of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories research school.
The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP) was founded on June 9, 1929, by Chester B. Roe and Leo J. Scanlon. Since then, it has grown to over 500 members and operates two observatories in the Pittsburgh region: the Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory and the Mingo Creek Park Observatory. The club also sponsors many star parties that are open to members of the public throughout the year.
HD 80606 and HD 80607 are two stars comprising a binary star system. They are approximately 217 light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major. Both stars orbit each other at an average distance of 1,200 astronomical units. The binary system is listed as Σ1341 in the Struve Catalogue of Double Stars; however, this designation is not in wide use and the system is usually referred to by the HD designations of its constituent stars. An extrasolar planet has been confirmed to orbit HD 80606 in a highly elliptical orbit.
Goodsell Observatory is an observatory at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, United States. It was constructed in 1887 and was, at the time, the largest observatory in the state of Minnesota. The Goodsell Observatory and its predecessor, a smaller observatory that opened in 1878, served as a widely consulted timekeeping station, bringing national prominence to Carleton College in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Darling's Observatory, built from 1916–17, was a private observatory built by J. H. Darling in Duluth, Minnesota. The site of the observatory was on West 3rd Sreet between 9th and 10th avenues in Duluth and sat about 325 feet above Lake Superior. Plans for the building were drawn by Richard E. Schmidt of Garden & Martin of Chicago. The blueprints for the steel dome were prepared by Darling himself after inspecting domes from various other observatories. The wooden building had a stucco exterior finish.
The University of Illinois Astronomical Observatory, located at 901 S. Mathews Avenue in Urbana, Illinois, on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was built in 1896, and was designed by Charles A. Gunn. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since November 6, 1986, and on December 20, 1989, was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Fuertes Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on the North Campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The observatory was designed by L.P. Burnham, Cornell Professor of Architecture and completed in fall of 1917. It was originally used by the Civil Engineering Department as an instructional field office for navigation and surveying. Today, the observatory is primarily used for public outreach, welcoming over two thousand visitors per year with open houses on clear Friday nights.
HD 80606 b is an eccentric and hot Jupiter 190 light-years from the Sun in the constellation of Ursa Major. HD 80606 b was discovered orbiting the star HD 80606 in April 2001 by a team led by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. With a mass 4 times that of Jupiter, it is a gas giant. Because the planet transits the host star its radius can be determined using the transit method and was found to be slightly smaller than Jupiter's. Its density is slightly less than Earth's. It has an extremely eccentric orbit like a comet, with its orbit taking it very close to its star and then back out very far away from it every 111 days.
Daniel Apai is a professor and astrophysicist at The University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. He is known for his studies of astrobiology, extrasolar planets, and the formation of planetary systems. He is the principal investigator of the Earths in Other Solar Systems team of NASA's Nexus for Exoplanet System Studies and the Hubble Space Telescope Cloud Atlas Treasury program, and Project EDEN, a large survey for habitable planets in the immediate solar neighborhood. He is leading the Nautilus Space Observatory space telescope concept and co-leading the technology development underpinning it.
George David Gatewood also known as George G. Gatewood, is an American astronomer and presently is professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Allegheny Observatory. He specializes in astronomy, astronomical instrumentation, statistical methods, stellar astrophysics, astrometric properties of nearby stars and the observational discovery and the study of planetary systems. He came to popular attention with his 1996 announcement of the discovery of a nearby multi-planet star system. This discovery has yet to be confirmed and is regarded with skepticism today.
Nicholas E. Wagman (1905–1980) was an American astronomer and astrometrist.
The Lamont–Hussey Observatory (LHO) was an astronomical observatory owned and operated by the University of Michigan (UM). It was located in the city of Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa. Construction at the site began in 1927, and the facility was closed in 1972.
HD 164595 is a G-type star located in the constellation of Hercules, 28.28 parsecs from Earth that is notably similar to the Sun. With an apparent magnitude of 7.075, the star can be found with binoculars or a small telescope in the constellation Hercules.
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