Sat 17th Oct 19:00 Costa Blanca Astronomical Society public talk

Staff Profile of Louise Devoy, Curator of of Royal Observatory Greenwich. Exterior: On balcont of the Great Equatorial Building with Flamsteed House and the Meridian Observatory in background.

Saturday 17th October 2015, Casa De Cultura in Denia from 7 p.m.

The Costa Blanca Astronomical Society is very pleased to welcome Dr. Louise Devoy from the Royal
Observatory, Greenwich as the next presenter in our series of public talks.

With a background in astrophysics, Louise has worked at several national museums including the Smithsonian (USA) and the National Space Centre (UK) before becoming a curator at the Royal Observatory. She specialises in the history of instruments used in astronomy. Louise will give an overview of the Observatory’s rich heritage and explain how the astronomers at Greenwich constantly sought to maintain a lead at the forefront of the science of astronomy. She will discuss many aspects of the Observatory’s history; from the technical details of the astronomical instruments, the architecture of the site and the people stories of the staff and the Astronomers Royal

All are welcome. Any questions call 671 152 686.

In her own words their follows a more detailed overview of the subject of her talk:

300 years of astronomy at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Situated on a hilltop location within Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory has played a crucial role within British astronomy, navigation and timekeeping for over 300 years. In this lecture I will present an overview of its rich heritage and explain how the astronomers at Greenwich constantly sought to maintain a lead at the forefront of astronomical research.

In the first part of my talk I will focus on the establishment of the Observatory in 1675 when the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed (1646-1719) was given the task of creating accurate star charts to help navigators at sea, resulting in the ground-breaking new star catalogue, the Historia Coelestis Britannicae in 1725. Helping navigators at sea continued to dominate the Observatory’s work during the work of the fifth Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811), who instigated the production of the Nautical Almanac in 1767. This annual publication provided navigators with the essential astronomical data required to determine their longitude using the position of the Moon against the background stars.

With the Nautical Almanac firmly embedded within the Observatory’s work, the astronomers could now expand their interests beyond positional astronomy. During the 19th century, the emerging technologies of photography and spectroscopy enabled the Observatory to contribute to the new science of astrophysics. Astronomers at Greenwich now started to research fundamental questions about the universe with an impressive array of new instruments, including our famous Great Equatorial Telescope with its 28-inch diameter lens.
Events beyond Greenwich also changed the astronomers’ workload. The dawn of the railway age in the 1830s increased demand for accurate timekeeping and national time standards, as determined by experts at the Observatory. Similarly, the decision to adopt the Greenwich meridian as the internationally-recognised prime meridian in 1884 brought the Observatory into the public realm and placed it at the heart of maps and charts.
Finally, I’ll discuss how the Observatory continued to function during the two world wars and how its role and physical location changed during the second half of the twentieth century before it became part of the National Maritime Museum in the 1960s.

As the story unfolds over three centuries I’ll discuss many aspects of the Observatory’s history, from the technical details of the astronomical instruments to the architecture of the site and the people stories of the staff and Astronomers Royal, all of which will help us explore this essential part of British astronomical history.

Dr Louise Devoy
Curator, Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Louise Devoy