It is kind of a thrill being at the centre of the world.
The Royal Observatory is situated on a hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames. In terms of astronomy and navigation it had a very big role in British history.
The Royal Observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II of England at Greenwich. As I said, its primary contributions were astronomy and navigation, timekeeping and determination of star positions. In 1767 the observatory began publishing the Almanac (an annual publication by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich called The Nautical Almanac publication), which in 1848 established the longitude of Greenwich as a baseline for time calculations. The almanac’s popularity among navigators led in part to the adoption in 1884 of the Greenwich meridian as the Earth’s prime meridian (0° longitude) and the starting point for the international time zones, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
The Royal Observatory was transferred from Greenwich to Herstmonceux in Sussex in 1957, in a search for clearer skies, and it was moved to the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge in 1990. In October 1998 it was closed and the equipment and operations were moved to the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, headquartered at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.
Some historical instruments and resources at Cambridge were returned later to the Old Royal Observatory, which was renamed the Royal Observatory Greenwich. It is now open to the public and it is administered by the nearby National Maritime Museum.
It remains today one of the most popular attractions in London. A standard ticket to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich costs £16.00 and it comes with an audio guide. London pass gives you a small discount off of the gate cost. We didn’t have the London Pass since we didn’t want to be tied down with what we wanted to do in London.
To be honest, if not for the excitement of stepping on both sides of the line to be in the two hemispheres at once, I don’t know if it’s worth the price. Also, the Prime meridian line is nothing more than a simple yellow line that depicts zero longitude.
It isn’t cheap at £16 each and I did expect more for that amount of money. Moreover, we got there late, 30 minutes before the closing time of 5.30 pm, so we had to rush. The last access should be at least an hour before because we didn’t have time to see everything. Perhaps, for this reason, I couldn’t fully appreciate it because we were short in time. As you could easily imagine there are so many people lining up close to the yellow line to get their photo taken. So, it takes time.
Obviously I’m not going to debate with the people who are interested in astronomy and of course, I was happy to get my photo taken standing on the 0 Meridian with one foot in the west and one foot in the east. It is kind of a thrill to think of being at the centre of the world!
If you enter the museum, don’t miss the camera obscura; it is housed in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory and it shows Greenwich and the River Thames in real-time.
Even if you don’t visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the view at the top of the hill is really worth it. There is a slightly steep walk up a hill to get to the entrance. Try the hike to the top, especially if you are around in the area.
Have you been to The Royal Observatory? Let us know your thought in the comments below!