The Central Astronomical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences at Pulkovo


Situated in a splendid 19th century building not far from the airport, this little-known museum has a rich history, and a reasonable collection of astronomic instruments from the last two centuries.

The question about the creation of a new observatory was raised as far back as in the mid 18th century, when it became clear, that the location of the academic observatory in the tower of the Kunstkamera on the Vasilievsky Island in Petersburg had become unsuitable for observation due to the growing city around it. In 1827 the Petersburg Academy decided to create a new astronomical observatory. The decision was approved by the Emperor Nicholas I.

The ceremony of laying of the foundation stone of the Observatory took place 21 June (July 3), 1835, and three years later, on June 19 (July 1), 1838, Nicholas I issued a decree approving the staff and the charter of the new observatory. According to the charter, the purpose of the new observatory was "to conduct permanent and improved as far as possible observations to facilitate the success of astronomy; to make relevant observations required for geographical research in the empire and for scientific journeys." In addition it was entrusted with a task "to control that other Russian observatories corresponded to the current state of astronomy; that their actions were related to each other as much as possible, and that the observations were as much advantageous for the science as possible."

In the summer of 1839 the construction of the observatory was completed and the equipment purchased by V. Ya. Struve came from abroad. Grand opening of the Pulkovo Observatory, which later became known to the whole scientific under the name of the Imperialis Primaria Rossiae Specula Academica, took place on 7 (19) August, 1839 in the presence of all astronomers of Russia, specially invited for the occasion to St. Petersburg.

At the opening of the observatory its staff consisted of 8 people. The observatory had a 15-inch refractor, which was the largest in the world. Pulkovo Observatory’s task was to create catalogs of accurate absolute positions of the stars on the basis of astrometric observations made using four of the five major tools installed at Pulkovo. There were made fairly accurate catalogs of the starry sky containing the coordinates first of 374 stars, and then of 558 stars for the years of 1845, 1865, 1885, 1905 and 1930. The observatory also conducted geographical researches of the Russian territory; it was used for the development of navigation.

In addition to catalogs, Pulkovo astronomers published a large number of different studies of the extremely high accuracy. The stock of Pulkovo had been constantly updated and improved.

Later, the son of V. Ya. Struve, academician O. V. Struve, relying on the generous support of the Academy of Sciences, enriched the tool base of the Observatory, having purchased in 1885 the world's largest 30-inch refractor telescope, made in the USA by Alvani Clark and Alvani Graham Clark.

Observatory participated in many geodetic studies, including measurement of degrees of meridian arcs from the Danube to the Arctic Ocean. In 1890, when an astrograph was delivered to the Pulkovo Observatory, it began working in the field of astrophotography. In the first half of the 20th century the equipment list of the Research Center was joined by the spectrograph Litrou, a horizontal solar telescope, a zonal astrograph. From 1920, the Observatory began transmitting radio signals of the correct time.

During the Great Patriotic War in Pulkovo Heights there was fierce fighting, the observatory was completely destroyed, but in 1946-1954 it was rebuilt, and its facilities had greatly expanded.

To date, research activities of the Pulkovo Observatory cover almost all the priority areas of fundamental research of modern astronomy: celestial mechanics and stellar dynamics, astrometry (geometric and kinematic parameters of the universe), the Sun and solar-terrestrial relations, physics and evolution of stars, the apparatus and methods of astronomical observations.

  • Address: Saint Petersburg, Pulkovskoe sh. (highway), 65
  • Phone Number: +7 (812) 363-72-07
  • Site:
  • Working time: Round table
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