Wandering Astronomers: the past, present, and future of mountaintop astronomy

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Talk by Prof. Andrew Lawrence, Regius Professor of Astronomy at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Edinburgh’s forgotten astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth.

In 1856, Charles Piazzi Smyth, together with his scientist wife Jessie, and a crew of sailors and Spanish helpers, changed the way we do astronomy. They traveled to Tenerife, lived on the mountain in stone houses they built themselves, and made amazing measurements that proved that observations were much better – clearer, sharper, deeper – than from smoky cities like Edinburgh. Piazzi Smyth believed that in the future we would all become “peripatetic astronomers”, wandering from mountain to mountain to get the best results. I will trace the story of how this idea became a reality, and how indeed wandering the globe to use bigger and better telescopes has been the story of my own career for 40 years. However, this golden age of peripatetic mountain astronomy is coming to a close. Why, and what lies ahead? This is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary Charles Piazzi Smyth, so it is an excellent time to examine his legacy.

Visitors are welcome at our meetings, but because of the popularity of our talks, visitors must register for a free ticket as visitor spaces are limited. Visitors can also leave after the main talk or are welcome to stay on for the rest of the meeting.

Also at our meetings:

  • What’s in the night sky this month
  • Overview of astronomy and space news
  • Occasional member presentations