THE HELWAN OBSERVATORY ( NRIAG)
Ancient Egyptian Civilization emphasized the big role of the Egyptians since the dawn of history in the progress of science and knowledge.
In Astronomy their monuments bear evidence that they observed heavenly bodies and their motions with unrivalled skill.
This is demonstrated in the orientations of the Pyramids whicl1 face the four main directions with great accuracy. Their continuous observations of the helical rising of the star Sirius enabled them to compute and construct the “ Sidereal and Solar Calendars ".
Egyptian Priests were highly reputed as scientists and astronomers that many famous European Philosophers and scientists came to Egypt to seek knowledge. Among them were:
Homer, Phythagoras and Arcilimidis who later advocated the doctrines of the ancient Egyptians of the centralization of the earth, space a dogma which nominated in astronomy till the sixteenth century.
Other famous scholars on the Egyptian land were Eratothenes and Euclid were the first to determine accurately the radius of the earth from the known distance between Alexandria and Aswan and by measuring tile inclination of the sun at noon time during the summer solstice at both cities.
Ptolomy in his famous “AI MAGEEST” which covered nearly all branches of science known at his time, explained various astronomical Phenomena. These included; the motions of the sun, the moon, the planets, solar and lunar eclipses proofs of the spheroidity of the earth and the theory of the motion of the visual stars and their brightness.
The Arabs have distinguished contributions to the advancements of astronomical sciences. They
erected many observatories; among them were the one built on Mokattum hill near Cairo aroundthe 10th century A.D.,EI-Geyoushi and El- Maamoun observatories whicl1 were constructed by the Fatemians. They made fresh and more accurate observations of stars and re-determination of the earth's diameter.
Among the famous Arab astronomers were: Mohammed El-Battani Abdel Rahman El-Soufi and Ibn -Younes. The latter used the available equipments at Cairo observatory to construct new astronomical tables ot the stars contained in what was called the " Big Hakimit Zig He also solved many problems in spherical astronomy and constructed Ibn-Younes observatory.
In 1840 an astronomical observatory was constructed at Boulac-West ot C airo by the Frencl1 during Napoleon's Regime h, Egypt. This observatory was closed in 1860.
In 1868 another observatory was built at Abbasya east of Cairo. It continued its function till the end of the century. When observations of geomagnetic field were introduced Abbasya was not suitable for such observations due to the introduction of the electric tram way in Cairo. Moreover, the increase of city lights around Abbasva rendered it unsuitable also for astronomical observations.
Thus it was necessary to transfer the observatory to another site for botl1 astronomical and geomagnetic observations. Helwan which is 30 Kms south of Cairo was chosen as a site. At that time, Helwan was a little village of about 5000 inhabitants only in 1903. Helwan Observatory was constructed on ' limestone plateau. Its geographical coordinates are:
Lat: 29° 51.5 N
Long: 31° 20.5 E
H eight = 114 meters (msl)
Astronomical observations at Helwan started in 1903 using a 30 inch reflecting telescope. Geomagnetic observations and recordings started in 1907. Seismic recordings was already made in 1899. Their equipments were up-dated with time.
Meteorological observations and studies were also introduced in 1920. These were performed regularly till the second world war when the n1eteorological observations and recordings were handed over to the "Meteorological" Department in 1940. Its present name is the “General authority for Meteorology".
Across this long span of time different names have been given to Helwan Observatory. For some time since 1960 its name was "Helwan lustitute of Astronomy and Geophysics" (HIAG).
Since 1980 the name was "The National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics''(NRIAG).