Ondrejov Observatory celebrates 100th anniversary


100 years ago to the day, the first astronomical observation was carried out in the Ondrejov Observatory southeast of Prague. Only a modest establishment at the beginning, it has grown into the largest scientific observatory in the country. Since 1953, it has been part of the Astronomical Institute of the Czechoslovak (Czech) Academy of Sciences and it also houses the largest telescope in the Czech Republic as well as Central Europe.

On August 1st, 1906, six gentlemen met in a small house with a removable roof built on a hill above the village of Ondrejov to carry out the first scientific observation of the skies. Prior to that it was the Clementinum college in Prague where observations took place for a couple of centuries but in 1906 they moved to open countryside. Astronomer Pavel Suchan.

"The Ondrejov Observatory is a successor to the Clementinum Observatory in Prague. It was built privately by the brothers Fric who then donated it to the state. Now it belongs to the Czech Academy of Sciences and at the moment, Ondrejov is the largest scientific observatory."

Dr Josef Jan Fric, a Prague entrepreneur, bought the land in Ondrejov in 1898 but it took him and his brother 8 years to do the necessary building work and install state-of-the-art equipment of the time. In 1928, he donated the observatory to the Czechoslovak state on the 10th anniversary of its existence. In 1967, a new telescope was installed there - a reflector two metres in diameter, which to this day remains the largest telescope in Central Europe. Pavel Suchan explains what scientists at Ondrejov specialise in today.

"There are several departments; the stellar department which studies the stars. Then there is the department of interplanetary matter which has quite a good international reputation. My colleagues quite successfully calculate the paths of meteorites and determine where they will land. And there is also the solar department with its 'solar patrol'. It is one of about 30 stations in the world which monitor the Sun around the clock."

In just two weeks time, the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union will be held in Prague, after 39 years, and the participants from around the world will be given a tour around the establishment. For the duration of the congress, the observatory will be open to the public on all weekdays. Otherwise, it is open on summer weekends from 9 a.m.