Archaeological Sites . Museums . Cultural Monuments Heraklion area

Skinakas Observatory in the Nida mountains

Skinakas observatory in the Nida mountains
Skinakas Observatory offers a number of open days each year in order to make the general public familiar with recent advances in science and technology.
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Skinakas Observatory was founded by the University of Crete, the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) and the Max Planck Institute Germany.

Its prime function is to conduct fundamental research in astronomy and astrophysics and to promote Astronomy in Greece.

It currently houses three fully functional telescopes. A 1.3m modified Ritchey–Chrétien telescope, a 0.6m remotely controlled telescope and a 0.3m Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The 0.6m telescope is a joined project of the University of Crete and the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Skinakas Observatory is operated by the Astrophysics Group of the University of Crete and FORTH.

The idea to create a site of astronomical research at Skinakas was conceived in the summer of 1984. Soon after the construction of a road to the mountain peak commenced. The university of Crete, The Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH, former Research Center of Crete) and the Max Planck Institute (Germany) agreed to build and operate together a telescope with the purpose of providing modern education in Astronomy to University students and also of supporting astronomical observations with emphasis on the research of extended sky objects like comets and gaseous nebulae.Skinakas observatory in the Nida mountains

The expected arrival of the comet Halley in the Spring of 1986, after 76 years of wandering through the solar system, set the time schedule for the installation of the telescope, which having a wide field of view, and equipped with a highly sensitive electronic camera was especially suited for the observation of the comet. Indeed, after the construction of the road on the rocky mountain and the completion of the first stone-made observatory, hundreds of people from all over Greece, among them many officials, came to Skinakas in the Spring 1986, in order to participate in the inauguration of the Observatory as well as to observe of the comet Halley. In 1988 the construction of the guesthouse, also made out of stone, was completed and immediately hosted the First School of Observational Astrophysics in Greece.

The successful installation and operation of the first rather small telescope confirmed the excellent astronomical conditions at Skinakas characterizing it as one of the best sites for high quality astronomical observations in the Mediterranean area. Consequently, the cooperating institutions decided to further develop the Observatory by the installation of a larger and very modern telescope with a mirror diameter of 1.3m. The telescope, which remains the largest of the site, was inaugurated in Autumn 1995.

Open Days for the public

Skinakas Observatory offers a number of open days each year in order to make the general public familiar with recent advances in science and technology. This provides the opportunity to visitors to be introduced to the operation of the observatory, to be informed about the latest achievements in Astrophysics, as well as to observe through the telescope, if the weather conditions are good.

Οpen days for the year 2016
  • Sunday 22 May 
  • Sunday 12 June
  • Sunday 24 July
  • Sunday 21 August
  • Sunday 11 September

During the οpen days the Observatory facilities can be visited from 17:00 to 23:00.

  • Up until 20:30 hrs the visitors have the opportunity to be guided through the Observatory’s infrastructure and follow a related presentation. After that time the telescope points to select astronomical objects and the visitors can view them through an eyepiece.
Please note
  • Due to the low temperatures at the altitude of Skinakas, having warm clothes is highly recommended. There is very limited number of seating available on site and due the large number of people visiting, often it may take over an hour to wait on queue. Please note that there are no public restrooms on site, or guest areas providing food or drinks.
  • The road to Skinakas Observatory is very narrow, so extreme caution is needed and parking space on the site is very limited. For these reasons it is strongly advised that buses are not used to carry visitors to the Observatory during open days since, depending on their size, they are often not able to reach the peak.
    (Source: website of Skinakas Observatorium: http://skinakas.physics.uoc.gr/)

You can combine your visit to the Skinakas Observatory with the following Tour: On the road to the Nida Plateau. Sfendoni stalactite cave, Anogia, Ideon Andron cave.

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