See outer space from Prague’s Petřín: Renovated telescope will allow for deeper observation

Štefánik Observatory

A telescope in the Štefánik Observatory on Prague’s Petřín hill has been returned after underdoing extensive repairs in Germany for two years. The telescope, which was first placed in the observatory in 1930, allows visitors to observe the moon, planets, and even the Sun during the day. Magdalena Hrnkova, a specialist at the Observatory, told me more.

“The telescope has been at the observatory since the 1930s and has undergone some minor repairs, most of which were done by hand. It was in dire need of serious repairs this time.”

A renovated telescope is placed in the Štefánik Observatory | Photo: Karolína Burdová,  Czech Radio

What is special about this telescope? What can be seen through it?

“It’s a telescope with a very big lens, which aren’t very common these days although they were quite common 100 years ago. Telescopes like these are used for mapping the moon, it has two telescopes – one for observing and one for taking photographs. It is particularly good at observing the solar system, the moon and the planets.”

Given the fact that the telescope is quite old, was it complicated to take out for repair and reinstall?

“Yes, it was quite a complicated process and we were quite nervous about it. To get it out of the building, we had to lift it out with a crane. Since the observatory is in the middle of the rose garden at Petřín, we didn’t know if the crane would fit. The telescope is quite heavy, five tonnes in total. So we needed to take it out in two parts. But all went well, and it’s safely back in now.”

If a visitor wants to come to the observatory, what can they expect to see?

“Currently, we are installing the telescope and learning how to use it, because we added some features and our guides need to learn how to use them. We are opening for the public on May 4th, and you can come anytime during our opening hours and see what’s in the sky. We will mainly be showing the moon, but we will also have a special exhibition about the telescope and how we’ve managed to maintain it over the years, which will also be available in English.”

Štefánik Observatory on Prague’s Petřín hill  | Photo: Karolína Burdová,  Czech Radio

What are the new features that have been added to the telescope?

“One thing that definitely could not be there 100 years ago is a positioning system, it’s placed on the old coordinate system, and it keeps track of where the telescope is pointing. It will make it much easier to search for objects in the sky.”

Maybe this is a silly question, but does it have to be the evening time for people to be able to observe and see the solar system at the observatory? Or can you see things during the day as well?

“Of course the main observation is during the night time, between 9pm and 11pm at this time of year. But during the day, we can use the telescope to observe the Sun, which can be quite exciting. We can observe some spots and explosions on the Sun. We can attach a small telescope on top of the old one which can filter out certain wave lengths that show the prominent spots. So we are open during the day and we can observe the Sun.”