AGH UST’s satellite observatory modernised

Observation dome being mounted on the roof of WGGiIŚ faculty building.

Determination of geographical coordinates based on observations of stars – this is the main aim behind the recently modernised satellite observatory operated by AGH UST. The overhauled laboratory is housed on the roof of the Faculty of Mining Surveying and Environmental Engineering.

The new 400 kg and 4 metre observation dome will feature a zenith telescope. The device, together with a specialised camera, will automatically take photographs of stars. After proper development, the photographs will allow highly accurate determination of the observatory coordinates.

Determination of geographical coordinates based on observations of stars is one of the most traditional techniques of identifying geographical location. Using this method people conducted global measurements, determining – among other things – the shape of our planet. This method has been used by geographers, travellers and explorers for hundreds of years and today astronomical observations complement the measurements conducted by modern satellite systems.

According to prof. Jacek Kudrys - the lab’s manager – astronomical observations used for determining location have always accompanied geodesy. They were used as a primary method of accurately determining coordinates within the Earth’s reference frame until the first satellite-based systems were launched.

– Coordinates established in this way – or, to be more precise, how they change over time, enable us to find out, among many other things, the speed and direction of tectonic plate movements, the location of the Earth’s pole or changes in the speed with which the Earth spins around its axis – prof. Kudrys explained. 

The analysis of the differences between the coordinates determined using the astronomical method and those established on the basis of satellite observations makes it possible to study the geoid, which is the reference surface for elevation measurements in geodesy.

The total cost of the investment was approximately PLN 260 000, of which 200 000 came  in the form of funding from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education within the ‘AGH UST’s satellite observatory modernisation grant’.