University College London Observatory unveils new 80cm Perren telescope

The latest addition to the fleet of telescopes at UCL Observatory has been unveiled by the Astronomer Royal.

ULC Observatory's new Perren Telescope. Credit: UCL

A brand new 80cm telescope has been unveiled at the University College London Observatory by Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees. The unveiling of the Perren telescope – a Cassegrain design – marks 90 years since the observatory was opened by then Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson in 1929.

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UCL astrophysicists, students and researchers assembled yesterday evening to hear Professor Raman Prinja, head of the physics and astrophysics department at UCL, and Professor Giorgio Savini, director of the observatory, announce the new telescope and how it will contribute to both research and student training.

UCL Observatory conducts a wide range of research in astronomy and astrophysics, from the study of exoplanets and asteroids to instances of gravitational lensing.

In 2014, four undergraduate students at the observatory assisted by Dr Steve Fossey discovered a stellar explosion – known as a supernova – in galaxy M82.

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees pictured at the UCL Observatory Perren telescope unveiling
 (Image by Kirsten Holst)
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees pictured at the UCL Observatory Perren telescope unveiling
 (Image by Kirsten Holst)

The new Perren telescope will further research at the university, but will also give UCL students of astrophysics training in telescope operation and data capture.

The telescope is fully robotic and automated, meaning it can be programmed via computer to focus on a specific object in the night sky.

Should bad weather roll in, the dome that houses the telescope automatically shuts until conditions improve, whereupon it reopens and the telescope continues tracking its target as it moves across the night sky.

UCL Observatory director Giorgio Savini introduces the new Perren telescope at the unveiling event. (Image by Kirsten Holst)
UCL Observatory director Giorgio Savini introduces the new Perren telescope at the unveiling event. (Image by Kirsten Holst)

“The unveiling marks the completion of a 14-year fundraising process and substantial renovation of our astronomical teaching observatory, which is scientifically transformative for UCL Physics & Astronomy,” says Prof Savini.

“In addition to the new Perren telescope, we have the restored 1862 Fry refractor telescope, the Radcliffe refractor telescope and two robotic Celestron C14 telescopes.

“We are also part of a collaborative network of robotic telescopes, TelescopeLive, based in Chile, Australia and Spain to allow full sky access to our students and both on-site and off-site observations.”

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees cuts the cake at the UCL Observatory Perren telescope unveiling event
 (Image by Kirsten Holst)
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees cuts the cake to mark the unveiling of the new Perren telescope.
 (Image by Kirsten Holst)

“UCL is at the forefront of many discoveries concerning exoplanet science, cosmology and stellar astrophysics, and contributes to ambitious international collaborations to probe the most elusive and mysterious phenomena in the cosmos, from black holes to dark matter,” says Prof Prinja.

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“It is only fitting that our astronomical observatory provides the best technology and environment to educate and train the next generation of astrophysicists to push the boundaries of knowledge even further.”