SHORT HISTORY OF THE ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY OF PADOVA 
FROM FOUNDATION TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR

Plot
Giuseppe Toaldo 
(1719 - 1797)

On May 21 1761, the Senate of the Republic of Venice issued a decree instituting an astronomical observatory at the University of Padova. This decision followed a suggestion by the Riformatori dello Studio, the Venetian magistrates responsible for the proper government of the University of Padova, and had matured within the framework of a complex program of reform of the University, with new teaching chairs and the constitution of new scientific ‘establishments’, the role of which, in modern terms, was to be that of allowing professors to ‘experiment’ and to instruct their students in the practice of experimentation.

It was not until four years later, in September 1765, that the professor of astronomy, geography and meteors, the abbé Giuseppe Toaldo (1719-97), was ordered to visit the main Italian observatories to gather information on how to build an observatory and on the instruments necessary for an astronomer’s work. 
On his return, Toaldo was required to present a budget and a project, and in December 1765, the architect Don Domenico Cerato (1715-92) was summoned from the nearby city of Vicenza. Cerato was a friend of Toaldo’s and had been a fellow student with him at the episcopal Seminary at Padova, and the abbé believed, with good reason, that Cerato was one of the best architects of the time.

Plot
The old castle, before the transformation

As the best place on which to build the observatory, Toaldo proposed the high tower of theCastel Vecchio, the old castle, with its thick, solid walls. This tower was eminently suitable for such a transformation: in addition to allowing much money to be saved, it was on the southern outskirts of the city, and from its top the eye could range freely across the whole of the southern horizon. It was an ideal place for future astronomers to work in. And indeed, it is to the south, on the celestial meridian, that stars ‘culminate’, that is, they reach their highest position above the horizon during their apparent daily motion, and may thus be observed more easily. Thus it was that the old Medieval castle was transformed into an astronomical specola (specula is the Latin word for observatory).

Plot
South cross-section showing the transformation of the old tower in ‘Specola’. 
From an original drawing by Domenico Cerato

Building work was begun in 1767 and continued for ten years.

News – MEDIA INAF

Il notiziario online dell'Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
  • «Siamo lieti di annunciare che tutte le immagini di Osiris sono ora disponibili con una licenza Creative Commons», dice Holger Sierks, responsabile scientifico della fotocamera a bordo della sonda Rosetta che ha cambiato per sempre la nostra idea di cometa, a proposito del completamento dell'archivio di quasi 100mila immagini ottenute lungo tutti i 12 anni di missione

  • Esami di maturità in corso anche per il prototipo di ricevitore radio prodotto in Svezia dalla Chalmers University of Technology. Una volta completati con successo i test, verrà installato su tutte le antenne a parabola del progetto Square Kilometre Array

  • Dati raccolti con il telescopio spaziale Hubble e il Very Large Telescope confermano - ancora una volta - quanto previsto da Albert Einstein nella sua Teoria generale della relatività in merito al comportamento delle galassie su larga scala. Protagonista una lente gravitazionale

  • La tempesta di polvere su Marte che ha obbligato Opportunity a interrompere le sue attività si è estesa su scala globale, raggiungendo anche il rover Curiosity, dall’altra parte del pianeta rosso. Se fosse avvenuta sulla Terra, coprirebbe un’area più grande del Nord America e della Russia combinati

  • RemoveDEBRIS, una piccola sonda progettata per dimostrare la validità di tecnologie innovative per ripulire i cosiddetti detriti spaziali, è stata lanciata con successo dalla Stazione spaziale internazionale e presto comincerà a provare i suoi curiosi attrezzi da “pescatore”

  • Colleghi ed ex studenti ricordano Giorgio Palumbo, uno dei maggiori protagonisti dell'astrofisica delle alte energie, scomparso ieri. È stato professore al Dipartimento di Astronomia dell'Università di Bologna e molti ricordano «il giorno della sua ultima lezione in cui tanti suoi ex studenti entrarono in aula ad ascoltarlo, come se il tempo non fosse passato»

Go to top

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information