ABOUT THE OBSERVATORY
Founded in 1932, the Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory was the first alpine astrophysical observatory in the former Soviet Union. It is located on Mount Khanobili, within 240 km from Tbilisi and 30 km northwest of Akhaltsikhe, at an altitude of 1700 metres above sea level.
Mount Khanobili offers superior astronomical observing conditions. As early as in the 1890s, Sergej von Glasenapp, prominent Russian astronomer and a travelling companion of the Tsar's brother, spent months in Abastumani that was a popular winter resort of the Caucasus. Professor Glasenapp made measurements of close binary stars with a small refractor in a tower referred to as the ‘Glasenapp tower’ currently located at some distance from the Abastumani Observatory.
Calm weather conditions and high-quality observations enabled Professor Glasenapp to locate close binary stars that are indistinct under normal conditions.
Glasenapp's observations immediately attracted astronomers’ attention. In 1893, the well-known American astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. wrote that Glasenapp's observations showed that Tiflis surroundings, namely Abastumani, offered superior conditions for astronomical observations. This became obvious not only because of the amount of work done by Glasenapp, but also due to the use of a small-size equatorial. Judging by the results Burnham argued that nowhere else in Europe, except on Mount Hamilton, could one find a location more appropriate than Tiflis surroundings.
Afterwards, Russian scientists repeatedly proposed building a large astronomical observatory near Abastumani, but it was not until 1930-1931 that a suitable site was selected in southern Georgia by an expedition jointly organized for this purpose by the then Leningrad Astronomical Institute, Tbilisi Geophysical Observatory and other state institutions.
The Abastumani environs gained increasing attention due to its favourable observing conditions. However the site of the ‘Glasenapp tower’ failed to meet the requirements of the new observatory. A new location had to be found with more space and equally favourable seeing conditions. It was then that Mount Khanobili, providing extensive areas and offering better astronomical conditions, was ‘discovered’.
The first observations were conducted in 1937 in a newly built structures equipped with telescopes. Observations were further advanced with the help of additional structures and facilities provided for this purpose.
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