ASE logo Astronomical Society of Edinburgh


No. 49 - October 2005

The future of the City Observatory

For some time the Society has been anxious about the state of the Playfair Building which houses the Cooke refractor and also the other Building in which we have our monthly meetings. The buildings are leased from the City Council. The buildings are deteriorating and may become unfit for any use in the not too distant future.

The City has plans to redevelop Calton Hill, including the buildings of astronomical interest. To review progress towards the completion of these plans myself and Alan Ellis met with City Council officials on 13th September 2005. Chairing the meeting was Lynne Halfpenny, Head of Museum and Arts, City of Edinburgh Council.

We were informed that the Council has appointed architects and hopes to set up a management group within the next six months which will develop a plan. Once the plan is completed funding will be secured (hopefully) and work can commence. Work on the whole site may not be completed until 2010/2011.

The ASE will be invited to be represented on the management group. The ASE now has the choice of two possible scenarios. One scenario is separating ourselves from the City Observatory because of its deteriorating state and because its upkeep is expensive. Rates and electricity are significant costs which result in our relatively high membership fee. Separation would mean giving up the lease and our use of the premises. We would meet elsewhere.

This scenario does not mean the historic City Observatory will be lost. No doubt the City Council will develop it at some stage and it will be accessible to the public as a historic building - though probably not as a working observatory. This scenario means that the Society may become separated from any future plans. The scenario means that a working Observatory will be lost. That may not, these days, be seen as of much consequence due to the light pollution in the centre of Edinburgh and also a lot of us now have our own instruments.

The other scenario is going along with the City Council and participating in the formation of the development plan and having a real input into the future of the Observatory and having a share in the running of the Observatory when the work is completed. On the downside it may be expensive for the Society to continue to be running the Observatory while the work is being carried out. In addition, the future, after completion, may be in partnership with the Council rather than leasing the building or running the buildings by ourselves.

These are the issues that the Society will have to ponder over the next few months and possibly make some decision on future strategy at our AGM in March 2006.

Des Loughney, President, ASE


Cover page

The future of the City Observatory

Obituary: Nora Jenkinson

Centenaries of 2005

The Scottish Astronomy Weekend 2005

Book review: Atlas of the night sky

Recent observations

Forthcoming events

About the ASE Journal

This journal as a single web page

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