Skinakas Observatory – Near Ideon Cave overlooking the Universe

Skinakas Observatory is a joint research facility of the University of Crete and the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH). Its prime objective is to conduct fundamental research in Astrophysics and to promote it along with enjoying the wonders of the night sky among students and general public in Greece. It currently houses two fully functional telescopes: a 1.3m modified Ritchey–Chrétien telescope and a 0.3m Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. A 0.6m fully robotic Cassegrain telescope is expected to be operational in a restored dome by the 1.3m telescope in the summer of 2021.

Skinakas Observatory is operated by the Institute of Astrophysics – FORTH and the Dept. of Physics of the University of Crete.

The observatory is located on top of Ida mountain in Central Crete at an altitude of 1750m. The line-of-sight distance of Skinakas from the city of Heraklion is just 25km, a rather winding 50km drive by car, which takes a bit more than an hour. Along the fully paved road, nearly 20km before Skinakas, one passes the historic town of Anogia, which is well known for its significant role in the recent Cretan history. About 6 km to Northwest from the Observatory there is Ideon Andron, the cave where, according to the Greek mythology, Zeus the mighty Olympian god, grew up as an infant.

The research areas in which members of the Institute of Astrophysics – FORTH are contributing, using also observations from Skinakas Observatory, are presented here.

A detailed catalogue of refereed publications, 234 until the end of 2019, as well as a list of PhD/MSc dissertations that have used data from Skinakas Observatory, along with a histogram of those publications as a function of time, follows bellow. Moreover, the impact of these publications as measured by the NASA/ADS metrics is presented here.

Skinakas Observatory offers a number of open days each year in order to help the general public become familiar with the wonders of the night sky, as well as the recent advances in astrophysics and technology. This provides the opportunity to visitors to be introduced to the operation of the observatory, to be informed about the latest astronomy results, as well as to observe through the 1.3m telescope, if the weather conditions are good.

Unfortunately, due to COVID19 restrictions regarding gatherings of large number of people in confined areas,
we are forced to postpone the open days for the summer of 2020.

During the οpen days the Observatory facilities can be visited from 18:00 to 23:00. There are presentations of the telescope and its operation up to 20:30. Due to the limited time, space and number of stuff, the presentations are in Greek. Depending on the available time and the number of visitors, there may be short presentations in English as well. After 20:30, the telescope points to pre-selected astronomical objects and the visitors can view them through an eyepiece. Commentary will be provided (mainly in Greek).

Due to the low temperatures at the altitude of Skinakas, having warm clothes is highly recommended. There is very limited number of seating available on site and due the large number of people visiting, it may often take over an hour to wait on queue. Please note that there are no public restrooms on site, or guest areas providing food and/or drinks.

The road to Skinakas Observatory is very narrow, so extreme caution is needed and parking space on the site is limited. For these reasons it is strongly advised that buses are not used to carry visitors to the Observatory during open days since, depending on their size, they are often not able to reach the peak.

A Google map with driving directions from the city of Heraklion to Skinakas Observatory is available here.