Observatory on La Palma
Credit: ING
An astronomical observatory is a place or building used for observing events in space. An observatory can contain just one telescope, but some have more than twenty telescopes. Astronomers use observatories to collect light from natural objects in space. This includes the radio, infrared and visible light (optical) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum
Most telescopes have a domed roof with an opening for the telescope to see out. These domes usually rotate, so the telescope can view different parts of the sky. The opening in the roof can be closed to protect the telescope from poor weather.
Astronomers choose the location of an observatory carefully. They want the best chance of getting clear images of objects in space. Some of these objects are hard to see in the night sky, even with a telescope! So astronomers want to collect as much light from them as possible. They need to find a place for an observatory that is:
  1. Somewhere where the weather is good.
  2. Away from towns and cities to avoid light pollution.
  3. Somewhere where the Earth's air won't disturb the light too much.

There are many places around the world which make great locations for an observatory. A lot of them are on mountains or islands. Check out our World Tour of the Best Observatories. But the ultimate place for an observatory is in space where are no problems from the Earth's atmosphere.