Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory, the first alpine astrophysical observatory, was founded in 1932 on the territory of the former Soviet Union. It is located on Mount Khanobili, around 240 km from Tbilisi, and 30 km in the north-west from Akhaltsikhe, at an altitude of 1700 meters above sea level.
Mount Khanobili is characterized with unique conditions for astronomical observations. As early as in 1890s, prominent Russian astronomer Sergej von Glasenapp, who was a companion and a friend of the Tsar's brother, spent two seasons in Abastumani, the renowned Caucasus winter resort. Professor Glasenapp measured locations of close binary stars with a small lens telescope in a tower, which is still known as “Glasenapp tower” and which is currently located in the vicinity of the Abastumani Observatory.
Measurements by Professor Glasenapp produced excellent scientific results: calm atmospheric conditions and expert observations enabled him to measure close binary stars, which typically are almost indistinct under normal conditions.
Glazenapp's observations immediately attracted astronomers’ attention. In 1893, well-known American astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. wrote: “Glasenapp's observations once again proved that the nearby surroundings of Tiflis (i.e. Abastumani) are appropriate areas for conducting astronomic works not only because of his work being of large-scale but due to use of a small size equatorial. If considering the results and, obviously, this is the best approach, it can easily be concluded that throughout entire Europe, more appropriate location then the nearby surroundings of Tiflis is impossible to find, unless Mount Hamilton, where the conditions are equally suitable, is taken into consideration...”
Afterwards, Russian scientists have repeatedly proposed to build a mammoth astronomical observatory near Abastumani, but only in 1930-1931, was an appropriate location for the new observatory selected is the southern part of Georgia by the members of the special expedition of the Leningrad Astronomical Institute, Tbilisi Geophysical Observatory and other state institutions.
Abastumani surroundings became the focus of attention due to the peaceful atmospheric and singularly favourable conditions for observation. However, “Glasenapp tower” site could not meet the requirements for the new observatory. Finding a place with more space which provided the same conditions for observation was necessary. Precisely then, Mount Khanobili, the extensive area of land with more beneficial astronomic climate, was "discovered.”
The first buildings were erected, telescopes installed and the first observations conducted in the fall of 1937; these observations later became of larger scale thanks to the newly constructed observatories, as well as implementation of new technologies and facilities.
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