Foundation of the Observatory

The first documented astronomical observations in Lviv date back to the mid 18th century. They are associated with the patron of the Jesuit College (of the university), an outstanding religious figure, Lviv archbishop Vaclav Yeronim Ciarakovskyi (1700 – 1780). In terms of technical aspects Father Dominic Lysohorskyi, Canon from Bzhozov helped the archbishop. It is also known that the Canon back in 1764 observed the solar Eclipse with the help of a sundial, quadrant with spotting scope and a micrometer as well as the Newton’s telescope. Exactly these observations by Lysohorskyi are mentioned in the Prague Academy records and Viennese astronomical ephemeris.

ao_1771_4The first record about the construction of the observatory was found in the archival collection from the city register on the activity of the Jesuit Order in Lviv (The central state historical archive collection No. 52, description No. 52, profile No. 234): “On April, 27, 1771 the Jesuit College willing to build the astronomical observatory in Lviv was struggling to obtain the permission from the local government to knock down the old gates and together build a new astronomical observatory funded by the Jesuit College. The city of Lviv gave the permission on the condition that when the observatory was needed to be used with the educational purpose, it should be returned to the city”. In addition, the city spared 4 weeks for the constructing works to be finished and required Jesuits to arrange the surrounding area, create a project and place the city emblem on the gate. This fact is confirmed by the document from the archive, a photocopy of Latin manuscript by Vielievich “The history of the Jeuit College of Lviv” which says “On May, 15, 1771, Reverend canonic Moshynskyi got the position of the head of the College from the Reverend Dominic Zelionka. Having signed the agreement and compiled certain conditions the College built the astronomical observatory on the city grounds in the middle of May. Father Sebastian Serakovskyi from the Order of Jesuits contributed 10 thousand PLN to the construction of the observatory building. The rest of expenses were covered by the College”.
After Galicia had been joined to the Austrian empire the astronomical observatory got an order from the Austrian government to conduct a geodesic observation of the Kingdom of Galicua and Lodomeria. Yuzef Lisganig (1719-1799), a former Jesuit who used to the prefect of the astronomical observatory in Vienna supervised the observation with the young scientist, Austrian engineer Franz Xaver von Zach assisting him. The latter became an outstanding astronomist: he founded the most modern as far as equipment is concerned observatory, published one of the first astronomical periodicals “Monthly press” (“Monatlische Corespodenz”), created the first astronomical congress ever existing. The historian in the field of astronomy P. Broshet from the Bonn’s observatory in his article “Duchess’s Astronomist” dedicated to Zach’s 150th anniversary stated that he had worked at Lviv astronomical observatory back in 1776.
After Austrian reform at Lviv university astronomy was considered a subbranch of physics. Some of the professors conducting lectures in physics also wrote scientific and non-fiction lectures on astronomy. Thus, Frantsishek Hiusmann (1741-1806) who had been teaching physics at Lviv university since 1774 and was a professor of astronomy at other colleges gave s description of the Earth from the physical and astronomical points of view (“Beitrage zur Bestimmung des Alters unserer Erde” in 2 volumes) and performed the research work “Efemerides astronomikal absente Helio in Norvegia pro 1776)”.
The observatory building survived after Lviv walls had been knocked down in 1777, it was then when the small gates were reconstructed into large gates the size of which could let carriages in. In 1784 the University underwent another reform a more radical one as a result a completely German university in honour of Franz Joseph II of Austria. This observatory was no longer mentioned in the foundation diploma. The name of the observatory was last mentioned in “The history of the university” in which the request from the local registry of the governor 1783 was cited. The request was sent regarding the construction of the new astronomical observatory as the one existing at that time did not cover the northern and eastern parts of the sky and, moreover, the entrance of heavy carriages through the gates made the instruments tremble and as a result prevented from magnetic observation. Apparently, that observatory was knocked down, but the new one was not constructed. This fact may be confirmed by an article in the magazine “Monatlische Corespodenz” (vol. 4, November, 1801, pages 547-558). Those are the letter of an unknown citizen to the bourgeois F. Zach and the reply to it which describes the state of Lviv observatory building.
There is no any documentary evidence on the work of the Astronomical observatory as the site for conducting regular celestial observations throughout the 19th century. However, astronomical studies were being developed and encourages by such university scientists as August Kutsenko. Ignatsy Lemokh, Woyzeck Urbanskyi and others. A number of books and non-fiction literature was published in Lviv at that time.


The Renaissance of the astronomical school in Lviv at the end of the 19th century is related to the development of Lviv Polytechnic. The starting date is considered to be the year of 1871 when the Geodesy and spherical astronomy departments were founded. There was supposed to be a separate place for astronomical observatory when the new building was being constructed, though the situation with the facilities was not good. Soon the department of spherical astronomy and higher geodesy became a separate department (including astronomical observatory) the head of which was Vatslav Laska who had moved from Prague. He managed to enrich the observation facilities of the observatory having purchased some new equipment. Those were applied observations connected with determination of time and earth coordinates. Laska also founded a seismograph station which belonged to Lviv Polytechnic observatory, wrote a number of articles (mostly on seismology) and a textbook on spherical astronomy (Lviv, 1901).

The development of natural sciences at Lviv University urged its teaching staff to apply to the Ministry of education in Vienna with the petition to found the department of astronomy at Lviv University. After 20 years of waiting in 1897 this decision was solved in a positive way and the Ministry approved professor Vatslav Laska, the head of the spherical astronomy and higher geodesy department, the head of Lviv Polytechnic astronomical observatory as a private docent of astronomy at Lviv university.
Only after 20 years of waiting in 1897 this issue was solved and the Ministry of Education approved professor, the head of the department of spherical astronomy and higher geodesy, the head of Lviv Polytechnic astronomical observatory Vaclav Laska for the position a private docent at Lviv University. Later in 1990 the minister approved the habilitation act of doctor Marcin Ernst being appointed for the position of a private docent of astronomy at Lviv University, who started teaching astronomy at the university. In 1907 M. Ernst was appointed an extraordinary and in 1912 – an ordinary professor of astronomy at Lviv University. Thanks to the foundation of the department of astronomy back in 1900 the astronomical institute was also established at the university which can be proved by the information in the periodical “Minerva” issues from 1906 to 1907. It was Ernst who started with regular astronomical observations. Apart from the observations to define time, there were some planet, comet as well as zenith star to define the latitude using Talcott method observations and the ones connected with observing the eclipse, lunar occultation, variable stars, meteors, new stars, transit of Mercury etc. Twice there were the cases when M. Ernst had to travel in order to observe the total solar eclipse to Spain in 1905 and Crimea in 1914. M. Ernst personally contributed to the development of the observation site2nd_aobild4of the observatory. Special premises with the observation site were allocated to the astronomical institute in the building located in 8, Dluhosh srt. (currently Kyrylo and Mefodii str, 8). During the period when M. Ernst was holding the position of the head of the observatory, Merc and Zendter’s refractor (D=134 mm, F=180 sm), universal tool, pendulum clock (Salmoiradgy company), medium solar chronometer, Ditisheym solar chronometer and a number of the laboratory tools were purchased, an astronomical library was also established. During Ernst being the head of the department, the latter together with the astronomical department were functioning as a united educational complex, the staff of which (professors, assistant and preparators) provided conducting the lecture, practical and laboratory classes on astronomy. That is why there was little time left for astronomical observations and research. But that was a classical scheme that was functioning during the 20th century in all universities of the world.
2 years after M. Ernst’s death (1930-1932) an outstanding physicist, honourable professor of the university Henryk Arctowski was appointed the head of the observatory since 1912. In 1932 doctor Euheniusz Rybka was appointed for this position who renewed the students’ intake attending the courses of astronomy, extended the staff, the scope of scientific topics and the observatory tools, started observing variable stars and working in the sphere of star photometry. It was in the same year when the astronomical observatory obtained the new status and name, astronomical institute.
The periodical in English called “Contributions from the Astronomical Institute of Lvov University” was also founded at that time. Stellar and solar chronographs of Narden company’s make were purchased to improve the material basis and organize systematic observations, in 1934 the camera with Zeiss triplet objective (D=100 мм, F=50 см) was created at the university of Vienna, three sites for the Merc’s refractor, astronomical camera (D=140 мм, F=70 см) and for Zeiss’ refractor (D=130 мм, F=240 см) were constructed, in 1945 Skhilt’s refractor and other equipment were purchased. After the equipment was constructed by E.Rybka continues his research on the photographic stellar photometry working at the observatory in Warsaw to compile the catalogue of the photographic magnitude of the close polar star. Apart from these works, observation of variable stars of different types, new stars, star occultation were conducted. Rybka also was planning to move the observation site outside the city centre and even received the governmental funding.
The war made its own adjustments into the observatory operation but did not prevent it. Some of the books, adding machine and chronograph were requisitioned. The rest of equipment was saved from being exported by the Germans owing to Rybka’s courage and resourcefulness.

Post-War Period (till the end of the 20th century)

In September 1945 all employees of Polish origin emigrated to Poland. The observatory staff was replenished by the scientists who moved to Lviv from other astronomical establishments of the USSR, the scope of scientific research was extended, namely with Physics of the Sun (V. Stepanov, T. Mandarynkina, R. Teplytska, H. Radianov), solar activity and solar and terrestrial connections (M. Eheysen), celestial mechanics (N. Yelienievska, V. Rohachenko), stellar physics, interstellar environment and relativity astrophysics (S. Kaplan). During the post war period (1945–1950) I. Syrokomskyi was the head of the observatory. Variable and new stars, comets and lunar eclipse photographic observations were being conducted. They also started the edition of the Lviv university observatory circular. The astronomical observatory became a scientific establishment of the University.

In 1940 the astronomical council of the USSR Academy of Science took a decision to construct an observation site outside the city. In 1950 Briukhovychi settlement was chosen as an observation site and in 1951 the decree of the Council of Ministers the land area 3.4 hectares of square was allocated for the observation site. The first part of bilding was performed within 1957-1960, when astronomical observatory received funding from the observation programmesao_bryuck4 within the International Geophysical Fund. The observatory tools of the observatory were enriched during that period: in 1957 they purchased the chromospheric and photospheric telescope AFR-2 (АФР-2), in 1959 – visual refractor AVR-2 (АВР-2) was bought as well as the coordinate measuring machine KYM-3 (КИМ-3). On the basis of the technical assignment of the observatory in 1960 the LOMO company created a 48-mm refractor AZT-14 (АЗТ-14), equipped with electrical photometer and is used to conduct variable stars photometric observations.
In 1957 according to the order by the Ministry of higher education and the USSR Academy of Science the station of the Earth satellites optical observations conducting regular visual, photographic and later photographic observations was established.
In 1988 they started locating the satellite with the help of a laser rangefinder LD-2 (ЛД-2) and its modernization (together with the State interuniversity centre “Orion”, Alchevsk) in order to improve reliability, accuracy and the speed of observation processing (O. Lohvynenko, Ya. Blahodyr). In 1992 the Ministry of Education took a decision to create the network of laser local complexes of the 4th generation site. Lviv University observatory was the participant of this programme.
In 1992-1198 they built another pavilion and purchased equipment needed for a laser complex based 1m telescope TPL-1M (ТПЛ-1М). In December 1998 first results of satellite laser telescope were obtained and since August 2002 Ivan Franko National University of Lviv satellite laser ranging site has been included into the International laser ranging service (ILRS) as the one meeting the international observation accuracy requirements (O. Lohvynenko, Ya. Blahodyr, B. Melekh, A. Bilinskyi).
Research fields from the post-war period were continued by other generations of Lviv astronomers. I. Klymynyshyn, Yu. Skulskyi, V. Holovatyi, O. Yatsuk, B. Novosiadlyi and B. Melekh researched the stellar structure and interstellar environment. The research of physical processes in the atmosphere by B. Babiy, P. Oliynyk, M. Stodilka, M. Kovalchuk, I. Laba, M. Hirniak developed to a great extent. Photometric variable stars research was continued by Ya. Kapko, I. Shpychka, O. Eheyson, O. Yatsyk and V. Kaserkevych. New research fields were developed: since the 70s research of star clusters with help of statistical modelling and multidimensional statistical analysis has been conducted by O. Eyheyson and O. Yatsyk, and since the 80s B. Novosiadlyi, Yu. Chorniy, S. Apunevych, Yu. Kulinich and O. Serhienko conducted theoretical works on the problems of the galaxy origin and a large-scale structure of the Universe. Vertical solar telescope along with diffraction dual reflection spectrograph were constructed by V. Stepanov. A. Kopystianskyi, F. Datsiuk, the satellites photographic equipment was modernized by O. Lohvynenko, a number of multichannel satellite photometer was produced (E. Vovchyk, Ya. Blahodyr).
According to these research fields the observatory structure was formed in March, 2003, it included scientific departments: Department of the Sun, Department of physics of the stars and galaxy, Department of relativity astrophysics and cosmology, Department of applied astronomy and physics of the outer space and two subsidiary departments – library and the Department responsible for economic activities and providing services. In 2006 the telescopes technical maintenance department was formed.


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    ISBN 978-617-10-0654-6