UCC observatory restored after €500,000 renovation

A 19TH century observatory built on a college campus will reopen on Thursday after a €500,000 renovation project.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin will unveil the revamped 1878-built Crawford Observatory reinstating University College Cork (UCC) as the country’s only university with a working observatory.

Once open, it will be the city’s second observatory.

Cork City Council and Cork Institute of Technology have opened a hi-tech observatory at Blackrock Castle. The Crawford Observatory, based in the heart of UCC’s College Road campus, was built during “the golden age of astronomy in Ireland”.

It was unique in Ireland for the remarkable state of preservation of its instruments and the original condition of the building.

The revamped building and instruments will now be used to teach UCC’s astrophysics degree programme. It is also hoped that the observatory will be open to the public.

The instruments in the observatory were fashioned by Howard Grubb who built the entire observatory, including the telescope, dome, clocks, as well as three major astronomical instruments and ancillary equipment.

Of its three telescopes — an equatorial telescope, a transit telescope, and a siderostatic telescope — the equatorial telescope is the largest.

It fills the 15-foot wide dome and tracks the stars in the sky using an intricate and very accurate clockwork mechanism. It was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1878 and its design won the gold medal.

“Grubb built the instruments and we intend to use them,” said Dr Paul Callanan, of UCC’s department of physics.

“The telescope is capable of monitoring large regions of the sky and it will be a great teaching aid.

“When they were made, these instruments were the very best in high technology.”

The observatory is a listed building and is considered very much part of the Queen’s College legacy.


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