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Gerling Observatory

Gerling Observatory with star trails in the back
Jan Loske
Gerling Observatory at night

After finishing the reconstruction of the new institute in fall 1841, Gerling put into service his observatory on 12 October 1841 with an observation of Polaris.

The equipment of the observatory mainly was aimed at the education of young scientists. Gerling and his students did not start a continuous observational programme nor did they participate in campaigns. However, there exist reports on observations of eclipses, occultations, planets and their moons, asteroids, comets, and meteor showers. In particular the research on asteroids of Gerling and his students was at the same level of others of that time.

The coordinates for the observatory were determined by Gerling and a small improvement was achieved by Richard Mauritius, one of Gerling’s students:

  • Latitude:  50° 48' 44,1'' N
  • Longitude:   8° 46'  24,3'' E
  • Height: 263,7 m

A recent global positioning system (GPS) measurement resulted in coordinates shifted by about 15″ to the West. The observatory is referred to observatory code 525 at the Minor Planet Center (MPC) of the International Astronomical Union.

Franz Melde, Gerling’s successor, mainly used the observatory for education of students and time determinations. The most well-known director of the observatory besides Gerling surely was Alfred Wegener, who had a job as assistant professor at Marburg University from 1909 to 1919. He was not involved in any research at the observatory, though. The last observations at Gerling Observatory, dealing with variable stars, were reported in the 1930s.

More about the history of the observatory may be found on the Christian Ludwig Gerling webpages.