Find out more
Lithuania was fairly low. The range of the observatory was quite wide: various areas of the sky were observed and described, daily records were made of the position of the Sun and the planets, movement of celestial bodies, eclipses of the Sun, the Moon, the moons of other planets and sunspots, and the coordinates of stars were recorded and updated every day. Some of the more significant recent observations were the studies of the first asteroids Ceres and Pallas, and the newly discovered planet – Uranus. M. Počobutas paid particular attention to the area of the sky which he called the constellation of Taurus Poniatovii (Latin for Poniatowski’s bull). However, this single “Lithuanian” constellation was erased from the star maps later on…
The observatory received its first telescope from Mykolas Radvila (Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł), Supreme Commander of the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was a 13.5 cm reflector. Another 10 cm reflector was gifted by the bishop of Vilnius Juozapas Sapiega (Józef Sapieha). Little is known about the astronomical observations of Žebrauskas. He managed the observatory in 1753–1758.
Vilnius University Observatory thrived when Martynas Počobutas (Marcin Odlanicki Poczobutt) became its director (from 1764 to 1807). He was a mathematician and astronomer, member of the Paris Academy of Sciences, a correspondent, member of the Royal Society of London and rector of Vilnius University (1780–1799). He made every effort to supply the observatory with modern equipment. In 1777, the observatory acquired Ramsden’s passage instrument and a mural meridian quadrant. The new instruments required new facilities, therefore a southern extension of the observatory was built in 1782–1788 according to the project of Martyn Knackfuss. Its Classical structure included two observation towers and a sturdy sandstone wall on the meridian plane. This wall divided the facilities into two parts. This device enabled Počobutas (Poczobutt) to observe planets, comets, asteroids, and the eclipses of the Moon and the Sun. His research data were very valuable and were later used by astronomers of other European observatories.
Astronomy recovered in Lithuania only during the interwar period when a land plot was assigned and several towers were built in Vilnius (then occupied by the Polish), at Čiurlionio street. In 1922–1941, the observatory was managed by Polish astronomer and mathematician Wladyslaw Dziewulski. After Vilnius region was returned to Lithuania, a decision was made to merge the observatories of Vilnius and Kaunas universities, however this was not implemented due to the events of World War II. Later, a 48 cm telescope was relocated to Simeiz Observatory in Crimea (Ukraine), and later to Maidanak observatory which had better astro-climate conditions. A telescope with a diameter of 63 cm was relocated to Molėtai Astronomical Observatory after it was built.