Ansicht Gebäude Historische Sternwarte

Historical Observatory of the University of Innsbruck

Astronomy was being taught at the University of Innsbruck as early as the 19th century, but there was not yet an observatory. This did not change until 1901, when Egon von Oppolzer was appointed professor of astronomy at the University of Innsbruck. He bought a plot of land on the outskirts of Innsbruck and built an observatory on it according to his own plans and with many ideas that were new at that time. To finance the construction, he sold the valuable collection of paintings that he had inherited.

Two buildings were erected, a small, free-standing dome with a Steinheil telescope and a larger main building with two floors. The second floor of the main building houses astronomical clocks, a Zeiss stereo comparator, a meridian circle, a zenith telescope and two universal instruments, and in the large dome a Zeiss telescope with a 40cm mirror is set up.

All instruments stand on massive concrete pillars. These pillars extend several meters into the earth and are not connected to the rest of the building. This construction method was chosen to decouple all telescopes from vibrations of the building; no disturbing vibrations can thus reduce the measuring accuracy of the telescopes.

The observatory building is constructed of reinforced concrete, corrugated sheet metal and glass to ensure rapid temperature equalization, which is important for measurement quality. Initially, it did not contain any work rooms. These, together with an extensive library, were located in Oppolzer's nearby private villa. In 1904, the observatory was finished and Oppolzer began with the adjustment of the instruments and with the first measurements.

He did not, however, have much time left. Only three years later, at the age of 38, he died of blood poisoning. In 1909, the facility was bought by the government from the Oppolzer family and it was transferred to the University of Innsbruck as university observatory.

The observatory built by Oppolzer did not need to shy away from comparison with other observatories of the Habsburg Empire, some of them larger: When it was opened in 1904 it was, together with its instruments, the most modern observatory of the entire monarchy and its equipment was among the best of its time.

Many years have passed since then. Today, the very well-preserved historical observatory in the north-east of the Botanical Garden, together with its original instruments, represents an important, essentially unchanged monument of Austrian scientific history.

Astronomical research and education are now conducted at the Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics of the University of Innsbruck; there is no longer a research observatory in Innsbruck. Sky images for scientific purposes are now obtained by Innsbruck scientists at large international telescopes such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile or with satellites.



Sternwartestraße 13
6020 Innsbruck

in the northeast of the Botanical Garden
entrance Botanikerstraße 10 (Bus stop "Botanikerstraße")

Opening hours:
Wednesday from 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.

Historical Observatory


Friedrich Vötter
T: +43 512 507 52055

Secretariat of the Institute +43 512 507-52011 und -52101

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