Côte d’Azur Observatory , Nice , Architecture, Monuments, Museum Provence Attractions

Côte d’Azur Observatory
Address - Boulevard de l’Observatoire - 34229
Type - Architecture, Monuments, Museum

The night sky over the Côte d’Azur with bright sparkling stars attracts the eyes of ordinary people, and especially of the scientists-astronomers.That is why here (on the top of the hill of Mont Gros, at a distance of about 2 km from the park of Mont Boron), at an altitude of 370 meters above sea level the Côte d'Azur Observatory is located. The place for its construction there was not chosen by chance: a large number of cloudless days and fresh air of Nice offer excellent conditions for astronomical observations.

Observatoire de la Cote dAzur NiceNow the observatory is not only a world-renowned scientific laboratory, but also a cultural centre – many tourists arrive each year. They are attracted to the top of Mont Gros by the opportunity to observe the planets floating in the star «ocean». The group visits are allowed here (the guests are offered to go up to the «Astrorama» – a platform with telescopes in the open air and fascinating walks through the forest trails). The observatory employees read the visitors interesting lectures about the planets, the stars, the «black holes» and other wonders of the Universe.

(Also «Astrorama» has a website where every day the rising and setting of the planets and the Moon is indicated).

The observatory can be reached by a winding road leading up the hill. Near the gate the guests are met with the statues of Astronomy and Physics (the works of sculptors Jules Thomas and Aimé Millet).

The history of creation this observatory is as follows: the idea of its opening belongs to Raphael Bischoffsheim, a banker and a patron of the sciences of Dutch origin. He, being himself an amateur astronomer, realised the financial support of the work of 2 observatories (located in Paris and on the mountain Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees).

Bischoffsheim acquired ownership of the summit of Mont Gros in 1878 and began the implementation of the project of the observatory construction. At his request project has developed the banker’s friend, the architect Charles Garnier.

The Nice Observatory is a whole complex comprising 18 buildings. (13 of them were built by Charles Garnier in the Beaux Arts style). The Observatory buildings are situated in a beautiful forest park which stretches over an area of 35 hectares. A stunning view to the west, in the direction of Cannes and east (you can see Monaco) opens from here.

After the construction of buildings it was decided to announce a competition among the architects for the project of construction of the dome with a diameter of 24 meters (which exceeds the size of the dome of the Paris Pantheon).

Moreover the dome weighing 162 tons had to rotate smoothly and easily about a vertical axis was for the ease of observation. The contest has won by the famous Gustave Eiffel who offered quite an extraordinary solution. Eiffel put the dome on the «float» which «floated» in the annular channel. (A so that water in the channel did not freeze in the cold a potassium carbonate solution was added into it).

A large telescope was installed under the observatory dome in 1887 (at that time it was the largest in the world). This refractor telescope 18 meters long had a diameter of 76 centimetres. Also, the astronomers had a smaller telescope (50 cm). Along with this using this small telescope the astronomer Auguste Honoré Charlouis managed to discover 40 asteroids!

In 1986 there was a unification of the Nice Observatory with the Centre de recherches en géodynamique et astrométrie (located in the Alpes-Maritimes). Together they form the Côte d’Azur Observatory. Now the scientists-astronomers conduct the extensive research (concerning planetology, stellar physics and gravitational waves).

Map - Côte d’Azur Observatory

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