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Visit Halley Astronomical Observatory

Address information

Postal address: Post-office box 110, 5384 ZJ Heesch
Visit address: Halleyweg 1, 5383 KT Vinkel/Heesch
Telephone number: (0412) 45 49 99

Opening hours

Open to visitors every first and third Friday of the month. Not open on national holidays and anniversaries.

Winter-time (November – March): 20 o’clock (8 pm)
Daylight saving time (April – October): 21 o’clock (9 pm)

To visit on other days: Please make an appointment with Ferry Bevers
Telephonically at Halley Astronomical Observatory: (0412) 45 49 99.

Fees

Until 12 years: € 3,–
13 years and older: € 5,–

Location of Halley Astronomical Observatory

Halley Astronomical Observatory lies at the Halleyweg. This location is very special. It is in the middle of a rural area, where there is less light pollution than close to towns, villages, industrial zones and motorways. Besides this (and that is not unimportant) you have an unhindered view on the entire night sky from the roof terrace and from the domes.

WGS84-coordinates Halley Astronomical observatory

51°42’12.316″ N (51.703421 N)
05°9’14.724″ E (5.487423 E)

The program

Annually thousands visit the observatory: on the open evenings, or at an appointed night. The program they get offered includes PowerPoint presentations, a visit to the planetarium and observing the night sky through a telescope. Enthusiastic members of the observatory welcome guests; other members who want to become hosts are very welcome!
The program takes two hours.

The Planetarium

Since the reconstruction and the reopening of our building in spring 2007, Halley Astronomical Observatory has a planetarium. This very special instrument is stationed in its own circular and arched room. The arched ceiling makes it possible to project the night sky in a very realistic way.

This planetarium is fully digital and contains an enormous amount of information about the universe. When the visitors are seated against the wall, the light is turned off and the show starts. The planetarium projects a beautiful night sky on the ceiling and it shows how the stars, the sun, the earth and the other planets move, and how the constellations look like. But in the planetarium you can also be taken on an imaginary space trip. Imagine that your chair is a seat of a spaceship that takes you on a spectacular expedition through our solar system and to see a number of planets and moons up close. And if you have a bit more time, you travel deeper into space to the stars and nebulae and even beyond our Milky Way to galaxies to the edge of our universe. And back in time, right back to the beginning of our universe, the Big Bang! Eventually the spaceship finds its way back to our beloved Earth.

Above you see a few examples of what is possible, but the possibilities that the planetarium offers are almost inexhaustible. Everything moves and turns in 3D and is real as life. The astronomical shows are and will be composed using data that is made available by the NASA.

On all nights for the general public there will be planetarium shows. The planetarium will also be used during the evening classes about astronomy.

Youth activities at  Halley Astronomical observatory

Four times a year there is a special afternoon for kids at Halley Astronomical Observatory, always on a Saturday afternoon from 14 until 16 o’clock. These afternoons are intended for children between 8 and 12 years of age. Each afternoon has a theme from one of the following categories: astronomy, space travel or the weather.
Sometimes the kids can come back at night, when it is dark and there are no clouds in the sky, to watch the stars and the planets for real with the telescopes of the observatory.
We charge no entrance fee for the afternoon for kids. Click here for more information (Dutch page).

What other activities does observatory Halley Astronomical Observatory offer?

There are every week activities at the observatory. We receive groups that have reserved an evening; members come together to observe objects in the night sky, to show each other their observational results or to converse about astronomy. At the observatory there are regularly lectures and once or several times a year there is an astronomy course. There are also activities for the kids from time to time. For these purposes there are several telescopes and are audiovisual equipment and computers available. The observatory has a library of its own, containing hundreds of books and magazines about astronomy and related subjects.

History

A prominent, white building featuring two conspicuous domes was erected five kilometres south of Heesch in the vicinity of Vinkel between 1987 and 1989. From a distance it looks like a mosque, but in reality it is an observatory called “Sterrenwacht Halley”. This facility is built by and for members of the society with the same name in Heesch.

In March 1984 Willem-Jan van den Heuvel and Jan van Loosbroek, two teenagers from Heesch, wrote a letter to the mayor asking him if he would support the building of a small observatory. They also contacted Herman ten Haaf, who had already plans for an observatory for a long time. The three of them succeeded to get the mayor A. Franssen enthusiastic and set the ball rolling.

To cut a long story short: more and more people were infected by the enthusiasm of the three. Herman made the first design for an observatory, which was presented to the public at the ‘Heesche Feesten’ in the summer of 1984. Later architect Anton Valks, another member from the beginning, designed the final building plan.

There was a very positive response to the plans, and soon it was decided response to establish a society. The society was founded on October 29, 1984. The constitution was finalized in a notarial document on February 12, 1985. Society ‘Sterrenwacht Halley’ was a fact. The first board consisted of Lambert van den Heuvel, Ron Heusdens, Anton Valks, Geert Maassen, Herman ten Haaf and Ferry Bevers. The first member meeting was on May 30, 1985; the society had 40 members at that time.

The new society had no money and no building site, but they had a very ambitious plan: the construction of an observatory. Acquiring a building site turned out to be the least of their problems. Municipality Heesch had in a rural area a plot of land that was left over from the re-allotment. The society could buy this plot of land for the symbolic fee of one guilder! In 1985 and 1986 many hundreds of funds, companies, authorities and private persons were asked to support one way or the other the construction of the observatory. This wasn’t easy, but with the dedication of the members and the support of a committee of recommendation, the construction of the observatory could start in December 1986. A contractor took care of the masonry and further tens of members helped in the construction: at least every Saturday, two years long. Meanwhile Herman ten Haaf designed the prominent polyester domes, which he then constructed with the help of others.

The society was not only busy constructing the observatory. The number of members grew and numerous activities were organized: lectures, evening classes, monthly stargazing nights, member meetings, afternoons for the youth, excursions, exhibitions, participating in the “Heesche Feesten” and other local annual markets and so on. The society continued with these activities after the observatory was finished. Not in the community house “De Pas” in Heesch anymore but in their brand new observatory instead.

Piet Smolders, a well-known science reporter and in those days the director of Artis Planetarium in Amsterdam, and province delegate T. Brugman officially opened the observatory on October 13, 1989.

The foundation “Sterrenwacht Halley” was founded in 1990. The foundation owns all immovable assets on the grounds of the observatory. This means the building, the plot, the plantings, the radio telescope, the railings, antennas and the antenna mast. The big telescopes, which are build under direct management to place them in the domes are or will become property of the foundation. The society ‘Sterrenwacht Halley’ rents the building and everything that belongs to it from the foundation. There are appointments about this arrangement between the society and the foundation, which are laid down in a contract. A few members of the board of the society are sitting in the board of the foundation as well.

By the end of the nineties of last century it became clear that the observatory needed a bigger building. The society and the foundation slowly started to develop their ideas of an extension to the observatory and started to look for sponsors and subsidizers. This required time and labour, but matters speeded up in 2005. Municipality Bernheze became enthusiastic about the plans and also the European fund Ceres showed their interest. Together with the Lions club (Bernheze branch) the foundation made a business plan and architect Anton Valks designed a considerable adapted observatory. The plans were modified and improved by members and later also by a consonance group.

The municipality and Ceres decided to grant the observatory substantial subsidies, and the plans to expand could finally be carried out. The enlargement started February 9, 2006. The new building was delivered up in October 2006, after which the members started to furnish and decorate the building and the garden. The observatory is now twice as big as the original building and includes a beautiful hall for lectures and presentations, a room for exhibition, a circular planetarium room, a new entrance ad kitchen and a room that is used by the members of the society. In the garden there used to be a big freight container that was used for storage. It is now replaced by a nice brick shed.

In 2006, the observatory was renovated. There is a new hall, an exhibition space, a space for a planetarium, a new entrance and an association area.

The ‘Sterrenwacht Halley’ Foundation

In 1990, the Foundation  Halley Astronomical Observatory is established. The foundation is the owner of all property at the site of the observatory: the building, the land and planting, the radio telescope, fences, antennas and antenna mast. Even the large, in-house built, telescopes for placement in the domes or to be owned by the foundation. The association ‘Halley Astronomical Observatory’ rents the building and everything that belongs to the foundation. Between foundation and association agreements are made which are fixed in a contract. Some members have a seat in both the association board and the foundation board.

What name do we give the society?

That question yielded the necessary headaches when the plans for the project began to get serious forms. First it was called ‘De Bleeken’ (‘The Pale’ – to the area where the observatory would be built), but soon someone got a much better idea. Years 85 and 86 marked the most interesting astronomical event of that decade: the re-appearance of the famous Comet of Halley. The choice for a new name was thus ultimately Halley: a suitable name at an appropriate time for an observatory in creation!

The Comet of Halley is named after the English astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742). He discovered with the help of Newton’s laws, that comets return regularly (the frequency of comets). He predicted that the comet of Halley, which appeared in 1682, would return in 1758. That prediction was correct and since then, his name is linked forever to this celestial body. The elliptical orbit around the Sun of the Comet of Halley lasts about 76 years. During the 90′s the comet was twice by the perihelion (the point in the orbit of a planet or comet where the distance from the Sun is smallest): On April 20, 1910 and February 9, 1986. Nobody knows how the name Halley from the mouth of the great scholar himself has riveted. That was and is in the English-speaking world in three different ways out: If Haley or Haily, such as helicopter; as Halley, rhyming on Nellie, as Hawley or Howley, sounding as Holie. What is your favorite ruling?