Seeing Stars In Athens: A Visit To The National Observatory

The National Observatory of Athens (NOA), is one of the oldest research institutes in Southern Europe: founded in 1842, the domed Neoclassic building sits at the top of Nymphs’ Hill, casting views to the Acropolis below and the skies above.

On a typically warm Athenian day, London-based, Greek photographer Ellie Tsatsou took a path that wound up the hillside and finished inside NOA where she was granted permission to shoot some of the oldest, and most beautiful, pieces of equipment there. The original building of the Observatory is known as the Sina Building, an ode to its benefactor Georgios Sina, a Greek Consul. Designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen, with input from both professors and astronomers, the building is cruciform in structure and sits on a hillside that overlooks some of Athen’s most celebrated historical landmarks. Designed utilizing elements of both the Byzantine and Neoclassical orders, each of the four wings of the Observatory aligns with a cardinal point, offering four different horizons. At the center of the historic building is the dome, hinged so as to enable stargazing via telescope.

NOA’s Visitor Center, housed in the Sina Building, is open to the public and is designed to fuel stargazers passion. Within its ancient walls are two centuries of Greek astronomical history housed across a Geoastrophysics Museum and the library of the Observatory. Here, set against dark wood shelves bulging with leather-bound tomes, stand a selection of 19th-century instruments and maps, used to determine the coordinates of celestial bodies.

Here, set against dark wood shelves bulging with leather-bound tomes, stand a selection of 19th-century instruments and celestial maps.
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NOA as seen from the Pnyx Hill

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Titles from the library of NOA

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Details of the Antikythera Mechanism, modern reproduction (2016)

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With thanks to the president of NOA Prof. Emmanuel Pleionis; to Eleni Christia, Anastasia Metallinou and the entire team at NOA for their generous help and assistance in the realization of this piece.

Photography – Ellie Tsatsou · Art Direction – Stylianos Tsatsos · Scientific Supervision – Astronomer and Space Physicist, Dimitrios Tsimpidas

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