Astronomer Royal

Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Households of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675; the second is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland dating from 1834.

The post was created by King Charles II in 1675, at the same time as he founded the Royal Observatory Greenwich. He appointed John Flamsteed, instructing him "forthwith to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so-much desired longitude of places, for the perfecting the art of navigation."[1][2][3]

The Astronomer Royal was director of the Royal Observatory Greenwich from the establishment of the post in 1675 until 1972. The Astronomer Royal became an honorary title in 1972 without executive responsibilities and a separate post of Director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory was created to manage the institution.[3][4]

The Astronomer Royal today receives a stipend of 100 GBP per year and is a member of the Royal Household, under the general authority of the Lord Chamberlain. After the separation of the two offices, the position of Astronomer Royal has been largely honorary, though he remains available to advise the Sovereign on astronomical and related scientific matters, and the office is of great prestige.[5]

There was also formerly a Royal Astronomer of Ireland.

John Flamsteed (Gemälde)
John Flamsteed

Astronomers Royal


  1. ^ F Baily, "An Account of the Rev. John Flamsteed", reprinted in vol.28,at p.293. "The Museum of foreign literature, science and art", R Walsh et al., publ. E Litell, 1836.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Forbes, Eric G. (1975). Greenwich Observatory, volume 1: Origins and Early History (1675–1835). London: Taylor & Francis.
  3. ^ a b McCrea, William Hunter (1975). Royal Greenwich Observatory : an Historical Review Issued on the Occasion of its Tercentenary. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Meadows, A. J. (1975). Greenwich Observatory, volume 2: Recent History (1836–1975). London: Taylor & Francis.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Astronomer Royal". The British Monarchy. Royal Household. Archived from the original on 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2017-06-23.

External links


Airy-0 is a crater on Mars whose location defined the position of the prime meridian of that planet. It is about 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) across and lies within the larger crater Airy in the region Sinus Meridiani. The IAU Working Group on Cartographic Coordinates and Rotational Elements has now recommended setting the longitude of the Viking 1 lander (47°.95137 west) as the standard. This definition maintains the position of the center of Airy-0 at 0° longitude, within the tolerance of current cartographic uncertainties.Merton Davies tied this crater into an extensive geodetic control network of the planet Mars based on Mariner 9 and earlier photographs. The Mariner 9 Geodesy/Cartography Group proposed that the prime meridian of Mars be defined by the center of Airy-0, which was selected by Harold Masursky, Gerard de Vaucouleurs, and Merton Davies at a Group meeting on 14 August 1972.It was named in honor of the British Astronomer Royal Sir George Biddell Airy (1801-1892), who in 1850 built the transit circle telescope at Greenwich. The location of that telescope was subsequently chosen to define the location of Earth's prime meridian.

Airy (Martian crater)

Airy is an impact crater on Mars, named in honor of the British Astronomer, Royal Sir George Biddell Airy (1801–1892). The crater is approximately 43 kilometres (27 mi) in diameter and is located at 0.1°E 5.1°S in the Meridiani Planum region. The much smaller crater Airy-0, which defines the location of Mars' prime meridian, lies within it.

Airy Glacier

The Airy Glacier (69°13′S 66°20′W) is a glacier 20 nautical miles (37 km) long and 6 nautical miles (11 km) wide, flowing west to the northeast portion of Forster Ice Piedmont, near the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The glacier was first roughly surveyed by British Graham Land Expedition of 1936–37, then photographed from the air by the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition in 1947, and surveyed by Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey in 1958. It was named by United Kingdom Antarctic Place-Names Committee for George Biddell Airy, British Astronomer Royal, who in 1839 introduced a method of correcting magnetic compasses for deviation.

Astronomer Royal for Scotland

Astronomer Royal for Scotland was the title of the director of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh until 1995. It has since been an honorary title.The following have served as Astronomers Royal for Scotland:

1834–1844 Thomas Henderson

1846–1888 Charles Piazzi Smyth

1889–1905 Ralph Copeland

1905–1910 Sir Frank Watson Dyson

1910–1937 Ralph Allen Sampson

1938–1955 William Michael Herbert Greaves

1957–1975 Hermann Brück

1975–1980 Vincent Cartledge Reddish

1980–1990 Malcolm Longair

1991–1995 In abeyance

1995–present John Campbell Brown

Atlas Coelestis

The Atlas Coelestis is a star atlas published posthumously in 1729, based on observations made by the First Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.The Atlas – the largest that ever had been published and the first comprehensive telescopic star catalogue and companion celestial atlas – contains 26 maps of the major constellations visible from Greenwich, with drawings made in the Rococo style by James Thornhill. It also presents two planispheres designed by Abraham Sharp.

Bliss (crater)

Bliss is small lunar impact crater that is located just to the west of the dark-floored crater Plato. It lies in a region of continental terrain between Mare Imbrium to the south and Mare Frigoris to the north. This crater is bowl-shaped, with a small interior floor at the midpoint and a somewhat eroded outer rim.

In 2000, the IAU named this feature after Nathaniel Bliss, the 4th Astronomer Royal. He was the only remaining Astronomer Royal who had not until then received the honor of a named feature or astronomical body. (This revision was announced by the XXIVth general assembly of the IAU, on August 15, 2000.) This new name for the feature was originally suggested by Patrick Moore.

Note that a bulletin announcing the name of this crater described it as a ghost crater that lies between Plato and Mons Piton to the south. However this was due to a mix-up, and Bliss is actually the crater formerly known as Plato A. The ghost crater between Plato and Mons Piton is sometimes known unofficially as Ancient Newton (not to be confused with the crater Newton).

Dunsink Observatory

The Dunsink Observatory is an astronomical observatory established in 1785 in the townland of Dunsink near the city of Dublin, Ireland.Its most famous director was William Rowan Hamilton, who, amongst other things, discovered quaternions, the first non-commutative algebra, while walking from the observatory to the city with his wife. He is also renowned for his Hamiltonian formulation of dynamics. In the late 20th century, the city encroached ever more on the observatory, which compromised the seeing. The telescope, no longer state of the art, was used mainly for public 'open nights'.

Dunsink observatory is currently part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). It provides accommodation for visiting scientists and is also used for conferences and public outreach events. Public talks on astronomy and astrophysics are given regularly at the observatory by professional and amateur astronomers. Stargazing events are also held using the Grubb telescope.

Edmond Halley

Edmond (or Edmund) Halley, FRS (; 8 November [O.S. 29 October] 1656 – 25 January 1742 [O.S. 14 January 1741]) was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain, succeeding John Flamsteed in 1720.From an observatory he constructed on Saint Helena, Halley recorded a transit of Mercury across the Sun. He realised a similar transit of Venus could be used to determine the size of the Solar System. He also used his observations to expand contemporary star maps. He aided in observationally proving Isaac Newton's laws of motion, and funded the publication of Newton's influential Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

From his September 1682 observations, he used the laws of motion to compute the periodicity of Halley's Comet in his 1705 Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets. It was named after him upon its predicted return in 1758, which he did not live to see.

Beginning in 1698, he made sailing expeditions and made observations on the conditions of terrestrial magnetism. In 1718, he discovered the proper motion of the "fixed" stars.

George Biddell Airy

Sir George Biddell Airy (; 27 July 1801 – 2 January 1892) was an English mathematician and astronomer, Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881. His many achievements include work on planetary orbits, measuring the mean density of the Earth, a method of solution of two-dimensional problems in solid mechanics and, in his role as Astronomer Royal, establishing Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian. His reputation has been tarnished by allegations that, through his inaction, Britain lost the opportunity of priority in the discovery of Neptune.

Harold Spencer Jones

Sir Harold Spencer Jones KBE FRS FRSE PRAS (29 March 1890 Kensington, London – 3 November 1960) was an English astronomer. He became renowned as an authority on positional astronomy and served as Astronomer Royal for 23 years. Although born "Jones", his surname became "Spencer Jones".

John Flamsteed

John Flamsteed FRS (19 August 1646 – 31 December 1719) was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. His main achievements were the preparation of a 3,000-star catalogue, Catalogus Britannicus, and a star atlas called Atlas Coelestis, both published posthumously. He also made the first recorded observations of Uranus, although he mistakenly catalogued it as a star, and he laid the foundation stone for the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

John Flamsteed Community School

John Flamsteed Community School is a mixed secondary school located in the village of Denby, Derbyshire, England. It is named after Sir John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, who was a native of Denby and made early and accurate predictions of a solar eclipse in 1666. The school's motto is 'Excellence, Ambition, and Resilience'. The current Headteacher is Lisa Walton who joined in 2016 after a controversial move from rivalling Ecclesbourne School.

John Pond

John Pond FRS (1767 – 7 September 1836) was a renowned English astronomer who became the sixth Astronomer Royal, serving from 1811 to 1835.

Maskelyne Islands

The Maskelyne Islands, often abbreviated as the Maskelynes, are a small chain of low islands that forms part of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean. Among the islands are Awei, Avock, Leumanang, Uluveo, and Vulai. Uluveo (also called Maskelyne) is the main island in the group and has three villages.The islands lie at the southeastern end of Malakula. They were named by Captain Cook after the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne as he sailed north from Port Resolution on Tanna in HMS Resolution in late 1774.

Nathaniel Bliss

The Reverend Nathaniel Bliss (28 November 1700 – 2 September 1764) was an English astronomer of the 18th century, serving as Britain's fourth Astronomer Royal between 1762 and 1764.

Richard van der Riet Woolley

Sir Richard van der Riet Woolley OBE FRS (24 April 1906 – 24 December 1986) was an English astronomer who became Astronomer Royal. His mother's maiden name was Van der Riet.

Royal Observatory, Edinburgh

The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ROE) is an astronomical institution located on Blackford Hill in Edinburgh. The site is owned by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The ROE comprises the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) of STFC, the Institute for Astronomy of the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh, and the ROE Visitor Centre.

The observatory carries out astronomical research and university teaching; design, project management, and construction of instruments and telescopes for astronomical observatories; and teacher training in astronomy and outreach to the public. The ROE Library includes the Crawford Collection of books and manuscripts gifted in 1888 by James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford. Before it moved to the present site in 1896, the Royal Observatory was located on Calton Hill, close to the centre of Edinburgh, at what is now known as the City Observatory.

Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich (ROG; known as the Old Royal Observatory from 1957 to 1998, when the working Royal Greenwich Observatory, RGO, moved from Greenwich to Herstmonceux) is an observatory situated on a hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames. It played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and is best known for the fact that the prime meridian passes through it, and thereby gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time. The ROG has the IAU observatory code of 000, the first in the list. ROG, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House and Cutty Sark are collectively designated Royal Museums Greenwich.The observatory was commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II, with the foundation stone being laid on 10 August. The site was chosen by Sir Christopher Wren. At that time the king also created the position of Astronomer Royal, to serve as the director of the observatory and to "apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation." He appointed John Flamsteed as the first Astronomer Royal. The building was completed in the summer of 1676. The building was often called "Flamsteed House", in reference to its first occupant.

The scientific work of the observatory was relocated elsewhere in stages in the first half of the 20th century, and the Greenwich site is now maintained almost exclusively as a museum, although the AMAT telescope became operational for astronomical research in 2018.

The Observatory (journal)

The Observatory is a publication, variously described as a journal, a magazine and a review, devoted to astronomy. It appeared regularly starting in 1877, and it is now published every two months. The current editors are David Stickland, Bob Argyle and Steve Fossey.Although it is not published by the Royal Astronomical Society, it publishes the reports of its meetings. Other features are the extensive book reviews and "Here and There", a collection of misprints and ridiculous statements of astronomical interest.

The founder and first editor (1877–82) was William Christie, then chief assistant at the Royal Observatory and later Astronomer Royal. Notable subsequent editors include:

Arthur Eddington (1913–19)

Harold Spencer Jones (1915–23)

Richard van der Riet Woolley (1933–39)

William McCrea (1935–37)

Margaret Burbidge (1948–51)

Antony Hewish (1957–61)

Donald Lynden-Bell (1967–69)

Carole Jordan (1968–73)

Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1973–76)

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