UCL Observatory

The observatory in March 2009

UCL Observatory (called the University of London Observatory until 2015[1][2]) at Mill Hill in London is an astronomical teaching observatory. It is part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London.


The Observatory was opened, as the University of London Observatory, on 8 October 1929 by the then Astronomer Royal Frank Watson Dyson, initially to house the 24-inch reflector built by Grubb of Dublin in 1881 and housed in Dr W.E. Wilson's observatory at Daramona, County Westmeath, Ireland, which was donated to the University of London after his death.

An 8-inch refractor was installed in 1931 following its donation to the University by H.R. Fry of Barnett the previous year. In July 1938, the Observatory was further expanded to accommodate the 24-inch/18-inch twin refractor that had been removed from the Radcliffe Observatory at Oxford in 1934.

In 1951, UCL took over management of the Observatory from the University of London, and over the next ten years added library, lecture, and laboratory space. (The administrative handover was recognised in a formal renaming from the University of London Observatory to UCL Observatory in October 2015.)

The Wilson telescope was retired in 1974 (to the Merseyside Museums), and was replaced the following year with a new 24-inch Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain reflector which was named after the former director of the Observatory, Professor C.W. Allen.

Current Status

In addition to the Fry, Radcliffe, and Wilson telescopes, two Celestron 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are housed in permanent domes, and there are several smaller free-standing telescopes.

The observatory's primary purpose is to provide UCL undergraduates with training in practical astrophysical techniques and data-handling. There is also a research programme, involving students in observing transits of extrasolar planets.


On 21 January 2014 supernova SN2014J was discovered at the observatory by astronomer Steve Fossey during a session with four undergraduate students.


Coordinates: 51°36′48″N 0°14′31″W / 51.6134°N 0.2420°W / 51.6134; -0.2420

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