Inspired by a passion for astronomy, the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Siena opened in 2004. Within the university complex at Porta Romana, the observatory has gathered together the instruments and the personnel who founded the University’s first observational structure in Chianti during the 1990s.
The Observatory is a laboratory where university students, as well as school pupils at all levels, learn to become familiar with the sky and to use instruments and the most modern technologies for the remote control of observations and for the acquisition and analysis of astronomical images.
These skills make it possible to carry out small research projects in the field of asteroids, variable stars, exoplanets and active galactic nuclei.
Through targeted educational proposals, the Observatory participates in the Scientific Education for Active and Conscious Citizenship (ESCAC) project and offers guidance tracks for high schools, which can also be configured as work-school projects or Paths for Transversal Skills and for Orientation (PCTO).
Guided observation evenings are often organized in collaboration with other local associations, allowing members of the general public the opportunity to get closer to the starry sky.
The instrumentation of the Observatory is housed in a spherical dome of 3 meters in diameter which, although close to the city, enjoys a clear view of the night sky from east to west. The main telescope is a Maksutov-Cassegrain made by Zen Optical Constructions (D = 30 cm., F = 1650 mm.), placed on a German Comec 10-micron GM2000-QCI equatorial mount. An Sbig STL-6303 CCD equipped with filter wheel, Optec TCF-S focuser and Optec Pyxis field rotator is used for image acquisition.
The dome and all the instruments are fully operable remotely.
The Museum System of the University of Siena (Sistema Museale dell’Università di Siena—SIMUS) is the tangible result of centuries of study and research carried out in and around Siena. The System constitutes a summa on the evolution of thought, scientific or otherwise, through collections of tools, finds, educational models, memorabilia and archival documents. Thanks to the passionate commitment of researchers and university staff, museum resources of this sort continue in the present day to provide an effective educational tool to be used in teaching and disseminating knowledge.