Skinakas Observatory

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The favourable climatological conditions prevailing in Crete (large number of clear-sky nights per year) and laminal flow of air from the north of the island, combined with the high mountains, place the island of Crete among the best locations in Europe for high quality astronomical observations. These facts were influential in the establishment of Skinakas Observatory.

The Observatory was built as a scientific research collaboration between the University of Crete, the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) and the Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik of Germany. It currently operates under an MOU between the University of Crete and FORTH. The site of the Observatory, chosen on scientific and functional grounds, is the Skinakas summit of Mount Ida (Psiloritis), at an altitude of 1750 m and a distance of 50 km from Heraklion.

The Observatory has two telescopes: a Modified Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with a 1.3m aperture (focal ratio of F 7.6) and a 30cm telescope (focal ratio F 3.2). The building for the small telescope was built in 1986, and observations started in 1987. The 1.3μ telescope commenced its observations in October 1995 and was the largest telescope in Greece until 2007. The optical system was manifactured by Carl Zeiss, and the mechanical parts by DFM Engineering. Power is provided by a photovoltaic station.

The current instrumentation of the 1.3m telescope includes:

- a Focal Reducer which more than doubles the field of view of the telescope.
- autoguider
- three optical CCD cameras 2048x2048 pixels of 13.5 μm pixel size and an auxiliary CCD camera 3072x2048pixels with a 9μm pixel size
- a full set of narrow and broad-band photometric filters.
- a long slit spectrograph with a set of four slits of different size and 8 dispersion gratings.
- a wide field near-infared camera (7' x 7').
- a specialized optical polarimeter (Robopol).

Under construction is:

- WALOP: a high-efficiency, high-sensitivity, high-accuracy wide field optical polarimeter

The main ongoing astronomical projects at the Observatory of Skinakas include the study of:

- galaxies and Active Galactic Nuclei
- planetary nebulae
- supernovae remnants
- globular clusters
- X-ray binaries (cataclysmic variables, accreting pulsars, black-hole binaries)
- polarization studies of blazars and of the magnetic field in molecular clouds of our Galaxy

For more information visit the dedicated web site of Skinakas Observatory.

University of Crete - Department of Physics  - Voutes University Campus - GR-71003 Heraklion, Greece
phone: +30 2810 394300 - fax: +30 2810 394301