On Monday 30th January we visited the Observatory, one of the Helsinki university museums. It is incredibly easy to get to, a leisurely short walk from the city center. We were greeted by Paula, a very energetic, bubbly and extremely knowledgeable tour guide who made us all feel at home.
The observatory was completed in 1834 is now a museum but was lived in as recently as the 1960’s by the professor of astronomy. There are several fun reminders of its residential history such as a section of the wallpapers through the years or the antique cooker near the cloakroom.
The tour begins in a room with some fascinating old equipment such as telescopes and documents and we even discover that the lounge ceiling would have opened to allow the astronomer to lounge back on his chair and study the night skies. It sounds very idyllic and extremely romantic until we discover that the fireplace in the room would have remained cold as the heat would cause visual disturbances. Perhaps a little chilly in the winter!
Of course modern developments have taken us a long way and we were able to see an example of a new working telescope in the garden, not quite how you would imagine it to be but very intriguing all the same. This cross over into modern sciences also led us to a little mini learning curve and some playing around.
This circular table shows all the months of the year and you can move earth around the sun in the center. Not only does this perfectly show the reasons for the length of sunlight during the day it also goes into showing how you find your star sign for you month. The blue backdrop shows the star constellations, but you need to go and see it to find out how you got yours. We can’t tell you all the secrets.
We went on to a big display of screens holding some very interesting facts. This is also a great spot to grab a seat and rest your feet while you soak up all the knowledge on offer. You can find out the relative size of planets in comparison to each other or get to play around with some very cool and funky thermal imaging.
We then popped our coats on and went up an amazing old staircase ad corridor to the tower. The views are stunning! You can see right down the one road all the way to Hakaniemi.
Paula showed us how the top half of the room would open up and indeed move around in order to allow the astronomers to access any part of the night sky for study. Not only was it quite an architectural wonder, but the system still worked beautifully. One small detail the academics always needed to be mindful of was to shut the trapdoor down to the stairs as it would be pitch black.
At the end of the tour there was one last visit to be made. We went outside, through a lovely little almost secret doorway to be seated in a quaint little room – the planetarium. This was so peaceful and relaxing, really just like being under the night sky. No photo of this though because it’s an experience you really need to check out for yourself.
At least for myself, I’m feeling quite star struck.
You can find out more about the observatory at www.observatorio.fi
The address is Kopernikuksentie 1, Helsinki, easy walkable from the center or you can take tram number 10 or 2.
Opening hours are Thursday 12-20, Friday to Sunday 12-16.
A student entrance ticket is 6€.
I would suggest booking a tour if you can, it really helps brings the history to life and merges perfectly into modern knowledge.
Text and Photos: International Student Ambassador Coordinator Sara Haapanen