Discover Edinburgh Things to Do in Edinburgh Tourist Attractions Royal Observatory Visitor Centre


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Blackford Hill, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ
Tel : 0131 668 8404
Situated 3 miles south of Central Edinburgh and perched above Blackford Hill is The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh (ROE) dating from 1896. Originally founded a century earlier by the University of Edinburgh in 1796, the Royal Observatory continues to forge close links with the University’s Science Faculty located in the King’s Buildings nearby and is the home of the University’s Institute for Astronomy.

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In today’s setting, the Royal Observatory’s location is no longer feasible for observation at a local level as a result of the increase in pollution and urbanisation of Edinburgh during the 20th and into 21st Centuries, however, it has retained its position as one of the world’s foremost centres for astronomical research, designing an extensive range of advanced astronomical equipment and software at the in-house UK Astronomy Technology Centre and is connected via data links to other UK funded astronomical projects around the globe, including New South Wales, Hawaii and The Canary Islands.

A visitor centre was established in 1981 housing a fascinating collection of exhibits dedicated to space research and contemporary astronomy combined with modern astronomical and optical instruments, offering breathtaking glimpses of our solar system and awesome panoramic vistas of Edinburgh’s cityscape.

Providing visitors with an open ceiling into the world of Astronomy, the Royal Observatory Visitor Centre contains the second largest telescope in Scotland known as the Schmidt, originally installed in the West Dome of the neighbouring Observatory in 1951. Visitors can take advantage of viewing an array of spectacular events such as meteor showers, shooting stars and sun spotting at scheduled times of the year, particularly the winter season when the skies are crisp and clear.

The Visitor Centre is opened specifically for special events only throughout the year and provides general public viewing every Friday evening as well as group visits that must be pre-booked in advance. This hands-on visitor attraction invites visitors to handle a series of tactile objects from our solar system including meteorites as well as using the sunspotter to identify sunspots that contribute to the Aurora Borealis and the Austral Borealis. A Team of informative staff cordially invites visitors to take to the roof top at night and are on hand to assist you in identifying the main constellations and explain the shifting patterns of the night sky through the seasons.

For a unique close-up behind the scenes experience, visitors have the opportunity to visit the Royal Observatory itself during open days at Easter Time and in late September where over thirty staff are available to guide you through the observatory and respond to any queries you may have. Highlights of the experience are a visit to the Starlab Planetarium, the most popular attraction as well as a tour of the newest labs and insight into their functions. Open Days to the Observatory are free of charge and assures free entry into the Visitor Centre.