Let the sun shine in Leiden!
The Leiden Observatory is starting a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to construct a new telescope.
The campaign ‘Let the sun shine in Leiden!’ is aiming to add a new telescope to the Old Observatory for the first time in 68 years. The new addition will also be made accessible to everyone. This project is a unique collaborative effort involving volunteers, astronomers, instrument developers and the wider public. Together, they are aiming to raise the necessary twenty thousand euros.
The crowdfunding campaign will kick off on 26 January, and will conclude, at the latest, during the solar eclipse on 20 March 2015.
‘Live images’ broadcast from the sun
The solar telescope consists of an ingenious mirroring system, which sends sunlight from the roof of the Old Observatory all the way down to the visitor’s centre in the basement. The ‘live images’ of the sun (with a diameter of 1 meter) are projected directly onto a wall. This enables the public to see the sun at close range and experience the solar flares, sunspots and other activities on the surface of our own star.
A tradition of crowdfunding
Let the sun shine in Leiden! is an online fundraising project, a relatively new way of gathering capital. And yet, as Leiden astronomer and project leader Ivo Labbé explains, the concept isn’t as new as many people assume. ‘The Old Leiden Observatory was also realised through crowdfunding in 1854. At the time, the Dutch people and Leiden’s students and professors gathered a substantial sum which as used to construct the original observatory. A new crowdfunding campaign thus perfectly fits into an old-fashioned Leiden tradition.’
A unique project for Leiden
The scientific director of the Leiden Observatory, Professor Huub Röttgering, added the following: ‘With this new addition, everyone will be able to see the majesty and beauty of the activities on the surface of the sun with their own eyes. The new solar telescope will form the centre piece of an exhibition that will be unveiled later this year; an exhibition that will allow us to travel through our entire universe, all the way back to the Big Bang.’
Professor Carel Stolker, Rector Magnificus and President of Leiden University, further emphasizsed the importance of this crowdfunding campaign: ‘A solar telescope in the beautifully restored Old Observatory, a showpiece of university and city. This telescope will be a wonderful introduction to astronomy and to the amazing world of science and technology.’
Watching the solar eclipse
2015 will be a fantastic year for watching solar activity. Among others, this year is the so-called solar maximum, the period of greatest solar activity in the sun’s eleven-year cycle. This will result in the largest number of flares and sun spots of the past eleven years. And on 20 March 2015, a partial solar eclipse will take place, during which the moon will cover an astounding 84 percent of the sun. There won’t be another solar eclipse visible from the Netherlands until 2026. Students from Leiden’s Instrument Makers School are already lined up to finish the solar telescope before the eclipse takes place.