The largest telescope in Moravia was inaugurated today at the Oldřich Kotík Observatory and Planetarium in the town of Ždánice, about 30 km south-east of Brno. There is a good reason why the telescope was installed and commissioned in this particular town, which has a rich tradition of astronomical observations dating back to 1965.
“This location was chosen for its low light pollution and also because it has sufficient facilities for our study and research needs,” says astrophysicist Miloslav Zejda from the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University. The new university telescope is equipped with a high-quality CCD camera, which enables the measurement of the brightness of celestial bodies and the study of the properties of stars.
The AZ 800 f/6.8 (ASA) telescope can be operated remotely from virtually anywhere on Earth. For this reason, the observatory’s dome had to be modified so that its observation slit could be opened and closed remotely, and so that the dome could rotate itself in the direction of the telescope’s line of sight. If the weather deteriorates during an observation, the dome closes and rotates to its home position, thanks to the telescope’s full-arc camera weather station. “Practically all modern astronomical telescopes around the world are now equipped with a similar remote control system, so if you have a computer with an Internet connection and you know what to do, you can carry out remote observations at, for instance, the European Southern Observatory or at the observatory in Ždánice,” added Zejda.
The Oldřich Kotík Observatory and Planetarium is owned by the town of Ždánice, which bought it from a private owner in 2016. With the gradual modernisation of the original building and the signing of a framework cooperation agreement with the Department of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics of the MU Faculty of Science in 2019, the town aims to develop the observatory’s potential and thus fulfil the legacy of its founder Oldřich Kotík. “At present, the observatory offers a digital planetarium, active 3D projection and the opportunity to observe not only the night sky but also the activity of the Sun through a solar telescope. We also have an exhibition of rocks and minerals here and visitors can take part in educational programmes and experiments. All this is very popular with the pupils and teachers from kindergartens and primary and secondary schools from the surrounding communities,” says Ždánice Mayor Kateřina Klapková, who considers the agreement on long-term cooperation with Masaryk University to be one of the important milestones in the development of the observatory.
The new university telescope, the largest in Moravia with a mirror diameter of 80 cm, was installed in the eastern dome of the Ždánice Observatory on 13 December 2022. Since then it has been in trial operation. The fully automated telescope with an 800 mm mirror diameter and f/6.8 aperture, mounted on an alt-azimuth fork, was manufactured by the renowned Austrian company ASA Astrosysteme GmbH. It is equipped with Ritchey-Chrétien optical system with Nasmyth focus. The telescope is equipped with a high-quality CCD camera on one side of the fork and a spectrograph on the other. Masaryk University is the owner of the telescope and will use it for student education, research and measurements, in addition to the existing courses, seminars and future practical training in Ždánice.