An observatory operated by UCL in North London has acquired a new telescope, which happens to be the largest of its kind in the UK. Based in Mill Hill, the observatory is part of the University of London, and is a teaching centre for students as well as for academic study.
The newly installed 80cm reflector is the facility’s biggest telescope and joins a suite of five permanently mounted telescopes housed in the observatory’s domes.
The Perren telescope was unveiled by Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, following a 14-year fundraising process which also saw four of the other telescopes in the observatory refurbished.
The telescopes are used by UCL staff and students to study planets within and outside of the solar system, asteroids and other transient phenomena such as supernova and microlensing events. They are also used to provide practical astrophysical techniques and data handling training.
Despite its London location, they still manage to get serious science done through the background glare of the city lights — in 2014, a supernova in the galaxy M 82 was discovered by four undergraduate students assisted by Dr Steve Fossey, leading to a global scramble to acquire confirming images.
There is a concern though that a planned housing development nearby could obscure some of the night sky. A development known as Pentavia was called in by the Mayor of London after the local council refused planning permission. It was later given approval by the Mayor citing a lack of new housing developments in the area in recent years.
The developer has said that the flats will have a minimal impact on the observatory’s operations.