The town council of Forcarei has the first public astronomical observatory in Galicia. The main objective of this facility is the dissemination of astronomical and scientific research. In this place they carry out activities that try to bring science closer to citizenship, mainly to children and youth.
The Observatory frequently organises guided tours. In these activities visitors can access the dome where they can see a professional telescope and learn how it is operated. In addition, both children and adults will discover as a family the elements that make up the cosmos: planets, stars, black holes, etc.
The activity is aimed at all audiences and lasts approximately 2 hours. If the weather is fine, visitors can enjoy an explanation of the night sky as well as the most interesting and outstanding mythological stories.
The first phase of the project consists of a circular building with a floor plan of 8 metres in diameter, the following is particularly noteworthy 5-metre diameter dome and which houses the main telescope; a high quality American-made telescope (RCOS) from 51 centimetres in diameter, equipped with state-of-the-art manoeuvring and imaging technology, which makes it a high performance semi-professional observatory, in an environment with excellent visibility and sky quality.
Its construction was co-financed with funds from Leáis + Montes, the Deputación de Pontevedra and Caixanova. The facility is managed by the Sky, Science and Culture Foundation (FC3), which is formed by the City Council of Forcarei, University of Vigo and Astrovigo.
The use of the observatory thus has two purposes: outreach and teaching among the academic community, astronomy amateurs in general, and research in those fields of astronomy in which it is possible to develop observations with an instrument of similar power.
The development of phase two of the facilities is planned for the future, which will include the construction of a second building to welcome visitors and a small planetarium, which will allow daytime visitors to learn not only how to work in the astronomical observatory, but also to develop educational programmes on the celestial movements of the stars.
The facility, which is constantly being improved, thanks to the efforts of the Concello de Forcarei, which showed its unconditional support to the project, was visited by thousands of people from all parts of Galicia, in groups or individually, and was even able to requesting “times” from FC3 for the purpose of unrolling own observation, with the support of the facility operators..
Although the OAF is continually improving its facilities and services for visiting astronomers and the general public, it is now possible to manoeuvre both the dome and the telescope from the control room.
Self-guidance, allows wide exposures for both scientific and aesthetic shots (sample shown below), digital monitoring of temperatures and light bulbs, broadband connection which allows the observatory to be integrated into a network for monitoring and search for NEOS, search and tracing of SUPERNOVAS, and of all astronomical events requiring a rapid response, are improvements achieved in recent months.
As a milestone in the OAF’s facilities, it is worth mentioning that from the observatory, the first images of the comet were obtained from Spain Hartley 2 in October 2010, and the first follow-ups of a number of supernovas thanks to the improvements in functionality introduced, allowing exceptional quality images to be obtained, with outstanding media coverage.
Information about the content or how to apply for guided tours or observation times can be found on the FC3 website: http://www.fc3.es/.
facilities and equipment
The circular building has on the ground floor a complete telescope control office, a storeroom/service room, a toilet and an electrical distribution room. It is possible to receive groups of up to 20 people in this control room and in the dome.
In the upper part, where the dome is located (which is equipped with opening and turning movements), is the main telescope, on a German equatorial mount that is capable of counteracting the movement of the sky. Next to the apparatus, there is a cabinet where the computer equipment that controls the whole process is located.
The main telescope is a Ritchey Cretien telescope manufactured by the prestigious American company RCOS, with an aperture of 51 centimetres and a focal length of 411 centimetres (f:8.1). It is an open tube in carbon fibre to lighten the weight of the set and to allow faster acclimatisation.
The manoeuvring of the telescope is carried out by an American-made German SB Paramount mount (Model ME), which allows the nearly 70 kilograms of weight to be easily dragged with a pointing accuracy of less than one minute of arc.
The telescope detector is a CCD camera model SBIG STL-11000 with 11 million 9-micron pixels and a 16-bit A/D converter. The camera includes a filter wheel with five positions, currently occupied by photometric filters of the Jhonson system (UBVRI), which allows precise photometry with quality accepted for scientific measurements.
Location of the observatory
Latitude: 42º 36′ 38.3” N
Longitude: 8º 22′ 15” O
Altitude: 670 m
For a better management of the Observatory, it is necessary to request visits through the contact form on the website of the Fundación Ceo Ciencia e Cultura.