A telescope comes home

In 1918 the Geophysical Institute in Tromsø was created. The tasks of the institute was to organize weather forecasts in Northern Norway and to study the aurora and allied phenomena. The Geophysical Institute (or Geofysen as it is called in popular terms) is where the northern Norwegian branch of the Meteorological Institute is today.

One of the rich citizens of Tromsø, konsul Conrad Holmboe, was very interested in the establishment of the Geophysical Institute and is considered one of the most important benefactors for its realization. He was also very interested in giving something to the people of Tromsø, and therefore in 1920 he also funded a civic telescope and observatory to be located at the institute. This is the so called Holmboe Telescope, which was bought from Denmark.

The Holmboe telescope inside the civic observatory at the Auroral Observatory (Foto: Tromsø Geophysical Observatory)

The instrument maker of the telescope was the famous J. Olsen from Copenhagen. He is also known to have made the astronomical clock at the Copenhagen City Hall and the telescope situated on top of Rundetårn.

The civic observatory became a popular attraction in Tromsø, and there would be regular open evenings for the population to come and look at the Moon, planets and stars.

When the Auroral Observatory in Tromsø was established in 1928, the telescope was moved there.

The civic observatory in 1930 after moving to the Auroral Observatory (Foto credit: Perspektivet museum, Tromsø)

In the 80s someone broke into the observatory and stole the main lens. Afterwards the telescope was put into storage and the observatory torn down. The telescope eventually found its way to the Meteorological Institute in Tromsø, where it was kept in an office for many years.

In the beginning of October 2018, the author of this text was approached by the Meteorological Institute asking if we wanted to have the telescope back. Considering our enthusiasm for our own history, it was easy to accept this offer. I and colleague Per Helge Nylund from Tromsø Museum therefore fetched the telescope (three men were needed to carry it) and brought it to the Auroral Observatory where we have a temporary exhibition about the place.

Holmboe telescope at the Auroral Observatory, November 2018 (Foto: Magnar G. Johnsen)
Driving mechanism Holmboe telescope at the Auroral Observatory, November 2018 (Foto: Magnar G. Johnsen)