The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ROE) is an astronomical institution located on Blackford Hill in Edinburgh. The site is owned by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The ROE comprises the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) of STFC, the Institute for Astronomy of the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh, and the ROE Visitor Centre.
The observatory carries out astronomical research and university teaching; design, project management, and construction of instruments and telescopes for astronomical observatories; and teacher training in astronomy and outreach to the public. The ROE Library includes the Crawford Collection of books and manuscripts gifted in 1888 by James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford. Before it moved to the present site in 1896, the Royal Observatory was located on Calton Hill, close to the centre of Edinburgh, at what is now known as the City Observatory.
A review of the Royal Observatories in 1996 concluded that the running of observatories and building of instruments should be put out to competitive tender, raising the fear of privatisation or closure. In 1997 this came to a halt and instead it was decided to reduce the RGO and the ROE into a smaller single astronomy technology centre. In 1998 the RGO was closed, while the ROE escaped lightly: The Plate Library and SuperCOSMOS machine were handed over to the University of Edinburgh, while the technology and project management expertise of the ROE – and to a lesser degree of the RGO – was retained by the newly-formed UK Astronomy Technology Centre, which superseded the ROE as the Edinburgh establishment of the PPARC. (The ROE name remains as an umbrella term for UKATC; IfA, Edinburgh University; and the Visitor Centre). The original 1894 building includes two cylindrical copper domes on top of the East and West Towers. These were refurbished in 2010. The East Dome still shelters a 36-inch (0.9 m) Cassegrain reflector that was installed in 1930. This is part of the visitor centre exhibition, but is not operational any more.
A 16/24-inch (0.4/0.6 m) Schmidt camera was installed in the West Dome in 1951. In 2010 this was removed to the National Museum of Scotland. The only working telescope is a Meade MAX 20in ACF (0.5 m) reflector in a hemispherical dome on top of the teaching laboratories. This telescope is used for undergraduate teaching. As of April 2012, the 1967 telescope and mount have been removed to Mid-Kent Astronomical Society; a replacement telescope will be installed later in 2012