The only observatory that has mapped both northern and southern hemisphere, that participated in the international mapping of stars in early 1900 is right here in our backyard! The Nizamiah Observatory.
The Nizamiah observatory is part of India’s rich scientific heritage; it is said to have catalogued more than a lakh stars and exposed thousands of photos during the reign of the Nizam.
This was the second observatory to be installed in India; it was named after the 6th Nizam, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan. He had 2 telescopes imported from England in 1901. These two telescopes were first mounted in his estate in Phisalbanda, and later in 1908, in Begumpet for its then clear and unpolluted skies.
It is said that Nobel laureates, Sir CV. Raman and Prof. S Chandrashekar named it as one of the best observatories. Today, both towers are listed as Grade I monumental structures for conservation.
The two telescopes, a 15 inch Grubb refractor and an 8 inch Cooke astrograph are housed in first floor of granite towers topped by a dome. The towers have wooden floors and ceilings. The metal dome is controlled by a set of gears which allow the dome to be rotated and opened.
The telescopes are mounted on a high granite platform which rises from the ground floor. A wooden platform allows the viewer to access the telescope. The room also has a huge rolling metal staircase for access to the telescope.
The Nizamiah Observatory took part in many important events; both national and international. Apart from its regular activities, it was also used for meteorological, seismological and time keeping observations.
Carte du ceil: This was the first ever international mapping and photographing of stars was done in the 19th century. The observatory took part in this international survey of mapping the sky and preparing an extensive astrograph star catalogue. The total project resulted in the publication of 12 volumes. Nizamiah Observatory was the only Asian observatory to take part in the project. It was also the only Observatory in the world to have mapped both northern and southern hemisphere.
The observations done during this project at Nizamiah and 20 other observatories around the world were was later complied into the first ever publication of twelve volumes of catalogues projecting the positioning of nearly 800,000 stars.Between 1914- 1928, stars mapped: 293,000. Between 1928- 1937, stars mapped: 149,000.
It also took part in the International Geophysical Year (57- 58) and the International Quiet Sun Year (64-65).
The observatory was renovated in 1993 and re-inaugurated afterwards by the then Prime Minister of India, Sri P.V. Narasimha Rao. Since then, the wooden floor has deteriorated with time and become dangerous to walk on.