Flamsteed Astronomy Society

Flamsteed picnic and visit to the Altazimuth Pavilion — September 3, 2010

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The Society returned to familiar territory for its annual picnic gathering held on September 3rd.  Around 20 people came along to the Astronomer’s Garden behind the Observatory for a very congenial chat over sandwiches, nibbles, and the odd glass of favourite tipple.  It was also a chance to meet the newest member, the new little Dear — all congrats to Gaby & Mike D (the younger).  Although it was dry and warm, the weather failed to cooperate sufficiently to warrant an outing for the Coronado solar telescope.

Never one to miss an opportunity to listen to his own voice, Mike D (the elder) conducted short (?) visits to the Altazimuth Pavilion for a talk about its history and to discuss the present telescopic occupants.  Nearly 30 members participated in this latest piece of sleep-deprivation research.  For a summary of Mike’s Altazimuth talk please read on.

The Altazimuth Pavilion at Greenwich formed part of William Christie’s 1890s extensions to the Observatory.  The largest addition was the South Building, originally known as the ’New Physical Laboratory’ and built to house departments using spectroscopy and photography.  The building work continued throughout the decade and the ‘Altaz’ Pavilion was completed near the end, opening in 1896.  An Admiralty engineer/architect, William Crisp, was responsible for the design which echoes the Germano-Italianate style of the ‘Albertville’ buildings in South Kensington.  The Pavilion has maritime styling hints — portholes etc — although perhaps more Jules Verne than QM2.  It is crowned by a weather-vane representing Halley’s Comet as portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry and forging a link to the legendary second Astronomer Royal.

Christie commissioned the Pavilion to house a new altazimuth telescope which could be used for precise positional astronomy measurements at many points of the compass around the horizon — that is, in ‘azimuth’ (horizontal direction), as well as ‘altitude’ (vertical elevation), hence ‘altazimuth’.



Grey and David chew the cud at the picnic

(Pic: Julie Bevan)

Mike kicks off the 2pm tour (Pic: Grey Lipley)

“Believe me!  I’m a ‘stronomerr”  (Pic: Grey Lipley)

Portholes a la Jules Verne  (Pic: Grey Lipley)

Yawn (Pic: Grey Lipley)

(Pic: Julie Bevan)