Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Astronomical History in the UK

Peter Harrison Planetarium Exterior
I transferred my UK pictures from my digital camera onto my computer last night, and I uploaded a few of astronomical/historical interest to my Flickr site. Although it was mainly a business trip, I was happy to get the chance to meet Orbiter's author, Dr. Martin Schweiger, and my Go Play In Space co-author, Andy McSorley on my weekend in London. I also managed to find time for two astronomy-related "field trips" that I have mentioned in previous posts. The first was the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the other was the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. I have pictures from both visits at Flickr, and I've added some explanatory comments for several of them.

One thing that I didn't realize while I was seeing it is that the modern exterior structure of the Peter Harrison Planetarium pictured here is an astronomical instrument itself! It's a tilted and truncated cone, with the main axis of the cone set north-south and slightly east of the Prime Meridian. The inclined angle of the south side of the cone is related to its latitude (51° 28’ 39” North) such that the sighting line along the south side points at the North Star. The northern side of the cone points to the local zenith, again based on its latitude. Finally the cone has been truncated at an angle such that the exposed surface is parallel to the Earth's equatorial plane. Quite the little astronomical visual aid!

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