The Centennial Observatory and the “Sky Map” Exhibition
In March 2023, the Shanghai Astronomy Museum completed the largest renovation and upgrade in its history, taking more than two years to complete. The main building was completely surveyed and restored, the 40 cm binocular refractor telescope and dome, built in 1901 and once the largest optical astronomy telescope in the Far East, were successfully restored and returned to normal observing use. What’s more, the fully upgraded exhibition provides an immersive account of the construction, development and achievements of the Sheshan Observatory. The exhibition also features the Sky map Project (Carte du Ciel), a major international collaboration on astronomical observations in the early 20th century.
The exhibition will be opened in the afternoon of 27 April 2023. The main exhibitions will be the Centennial Observatory Exhibition and the “Sky Map Across the Centuries” Exhibition.
The Centenary Observatory Exhibition focuses on the contribution of basic science, represented by astronomy, to sustainable development. Since its establishment in 1901, Sheshan Observatory has carried out a great deal of work in basic research on sunspots, the Moon, asteroids, star clusters and equatorial catalogues, and has accumulated more than 10,000 astronomical photographs, which have been published in the Annual Journal of Sheshan Observatory, enriching astronomical observations and expanding human knowledge of the universe.
The Sky Map (Carte du Ciel) Exhibition highlights the changes in research paradigms brought about by technological advances, as represented by the Sky Map Project, and the changes in international cooperation and human perception of the universe, reflecting the contribution of basic science to sustainable development. The application of photographic techniques to astronomy led to the construction of the Carte du Ciel telescope, which made it possible to take all-sky star charts; the difficulty of taking all-sky star charts and compiling star catalogues led to international cooperation, and on 6 April 1887 the first international conference in the history of astronomy, the First International Conference on Astronomical Photography, was held in Paris. 48 delegates from 19 countries attended the conference. It was decided to use photographic methods to compile an all-day photographic catalog and to advance the “Sky Map Project”. This is a large-scale international collaborative effort involving a dozen observatories using standard telescopes to photograph all stars brighter than 11.
One of the most important achievements of the Sheshan Observatory was the compilation by its first director, Father Stanislaus Chevaliev, of a photographic catalog of more than 14,000 stars in the 1-degree region around the equatorial belt, which was an international leader at the time. The observations were completed in just one year, while the calculations took 10 years, reflecting the emphasis on perseverance in basic research. The Sky Map exhibition also mentions the possible relation between this catalog and the international Sky Map project.