The sky over Aachen
The Public Observatory (“Volkssternwarte”) at Hangeweiher has been in operation since 1935 – a joy for Aachen’s hobby astronomers.
“When a supernova explodes, it can light up as bright as a whole galaxy,” says Karl Wyrsch, retired Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy teacher. And then he continues – about the formation of planets, the characteristics of stars, and the grand mystery of black holes. His audience in the conference room of Aachen’s Public Observatory listens intently to every word. But most of all, the people gathered there are looking forward to seeing the centrepiece of the observatory: the huge telescope in the dome.
A 20-centimetre lens, with a 3-metre focal length, precision crafted by the master lens makers of the company Carl Zeiss – while Wyrsch supplies facts and figures about the telescope, he performs the well-rehearsed routine of opening the cupola. The old wood creaks.
Everything still in its original condition
The observatory has been in operation since 1935. In those days, the location at Hangeweiher was on the extreme outskirts of the town, far away from any artificial lighting. As a so-called “Public Observatory” the small observatory’s mission has always been to impart basic astronomical knowledge to broad segments of the population. Germany boasts 27 of these public observatories. What makes Aachen’s observation post special is that – in spite of some damage incurred in the Second World War – the building has survived in its original condition, along with all the original equipment.
Live images from Mars
One after the other, the visitors climb the steps to look through the eyepiece. “I can hardly wait to look through the telescope,” says one little girl. Mars is on the discovery menu today. Its red colour is due to iron oxide dust. Its distance from the Earth varies immensely – between 56 and 401 million km. One thing is for sure: it’s very, very far away. So far, and yet so near. After ample amounts of oohs and aahs, it’s time to go home, especially for little girls. But everyone can look forward to the next celestial event: images from Mars, transmitted live by the NASA InSight Mars Lander on Monday, 26.11.2018.
Click here for the NASA website page on the InSight Mars Lander with images and videos of the landing and further developments.
For all guided tours of the Aachen Public Observatory (“Sternwarte”), see our Webkalender. (German only).
Am Hangeweiher 23
The dome of the Aachen Observatory has a diameter of six metres and two huge doors that roll on steel rails and can be opened and closed by means of a chain drive. Between 2003 and 2004, the dome was roofed with aluminium sheeting. (Photo: Sternwarte_Aachen)
The main observation instrument is the original Zeiss-AS-Refractor (20 cm aperture, 3m focal length) on a massive, parallactic Zeiss mount with a clockwork drive. (Photo: Sternwarte_Aachen)
Because of its long focal length construction, the telescope is particularly suited to observation of the Moon and the planets. (Photo: Sternwarte_Aachen)
The Mare Crisium on the Moon, taken with the Carl-Zeiss-Refractor (Photo: Sternwarte_Aachen)
Mars: taken in April 1999 by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS)