In 2020 the Astronomical Observatory celebrates its 175th anniversary. The construction of the Astronomical Observatory of Kyiv University was completed on February 21, 1845 (old style: February 9) (O. Beretti’s report to the University Board about the completion of the observatory construction). The first director of the observatory was the student of founder of the Pulkovo Observatory V.Ya. Struve Vasyl Fedorovych Fedorov (1838-1855). Under his leadership the site for the observatory was selected, the project was developed (by architect V. Beretti), the main building was constructed and the basic observatory astronomical instruments were commissioned. He also prepared and taught basic astronomy and geodesy courses for the university students. The renowned astronomers A.P. Shydlovsky, M.F. Khandrykov, R.P. Vogel, S.D. Chorny held the position of professor of astronomy and director of the Astronomical Observatory after him. It should be noted that astrometry and theoretical astronomy had been the main focus of scientific research since the observatory was founded until the 1940s.
The main astronomical equipment of the observatory (the meridian circle, 1871, and the Repsold astrograph, 1890) was commissioned and installed by the most eminent Kiev astronomer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Mytrofan Fedorovych Khandrykov. These instruments for a century have been used for the star observations to create a high-precision coordinate system in the sky, especially intense in the 1870s, 1880s and at the beginning of the 20th century. They have made a significant contribution of Ukrainian astronomy to what we now call the celestial coordinate system. Numerous scientific works have made Khandrykov one of the leading astronomers, and the textbooks and tutorials he wrote were widely used at that time and played a prominent role in the dissemination of astronomical knowledge.
Professor Mytrofan Fedorovych Khandrykov (1837-1915) – Director of the Astronomical Observatory from 1870 to 1901
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the Observatory and the Department of Astronomy were headed by prof. Serhiy Vsekhsvyatsky (1905-1984), whose name is associated with the beginning of systematic wide-ranging research in the comet, solar and solar-terrestrial physics. Under his leadership, the University heliophysics, since the 1930s, has made a number of high-quality observations of the solar corona, arranging numerous expeditions to areas of the complete solar eclipses. The geography of the expeditions spans the whole world from the islands of Polynesia to the Arctic deserts. The University scientists were the first to come close to understanding of nature of the Solar corona: in the late 1950s the concept of a dynamic corona was developed (E.O. Ponomaryov), called by E. Parker (USA) the “solar wind”.
Professor Serhiy Vsekhsvyatsky (1905 – 1984) – Director of the Astronomical Observatory from 1939 to 1952
The University astronomers were involved in providing the ground-based support for the space missions to the Halley Comet (VEGA) and to Mars (PHOBOS). Two comets (K.I. Churyumov, S.I. Gerasimenko) were discovered by the scientists of the University. The space mission “ROSETTA” was sent, according to the decision of the European Space Agency, to one of them (67P / Churyumov – Gerasimenko). It was the first spacecraft that reached the comet (August 6, 2014), became its satellite and accompanied it throughout the entire solar system until September 30, 2016, when it ended its existence on the surface of the comet, transmitting scientific data to the Earth. Through the study of Comet Churyumov – Gerasimenko it became clear which processes could lead to the destruction of the comet nuclei. “ROSETTA” is estimated by the heads of the European Space Agency to be one of the most significant scientific projects of recent years.
University astronomers, with the active support of Rector L. Gubersky, initiated and organized the accession of Ukraine to the International Consortium of the CTA (Cherenkov Telescope Array) – in 2015 Ukraine was accepted as a full member of the international CTA collaboration. The CTA project is extremely important for the development not only of the high energy astrophysics, but also of the physics of fundamental interactions, since its scientific program includes both astrophysical problems and the search for dark matter particles, the tests of Lorentz invariance, the search for gamma rays from the gravitational wave sources etc.
Today the observatory is running a youth scientific project, the principal investigator is Dr. V.O. Ponomarenko. The young scientists are observing active galactic nuclei with the AZT-8 telescope at the observatory station in the village Lisnyky. It is planned to expand the scientific research on this topic.
Observatory staff and students observe with the AZT-8 telescope for the international scientific program
For the past 175 years the University astronomers have made important contributions to the research in various fields of the astronomical science and the training of skilled personnel. Since the Second World War more than 670 astronomers have graduated form the University, among the alumni of the department there are 38 Doctors of Sciences, 177 PhDs, an Academician of NASU, 3 Corresponding Members of NASU and RAS, 7 winners of the UkrSSR and Ukraine State Prizes. University astronomers obtain important scientific results that are highly appreciated by the global scientific community. On the 175th anniversary the Astronomical Observatory is a world-reknowned scientific institution with the modern research areas and the qualified team of scientists capable of solving the actual problems of modern astronomy.