Evgeni Kharadze Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory is one of the most famous and interesting places in Georgia. Astronomical observations and scientific research processes have been continuous here for more than 85 years.
Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory is located in Abastumani, Samtskhe-Javakheti region, Adigeni municipality. The observatory was founded on Mount Kanobli in 1932 under the leadership of Professor Evgeni Kharadze and is the first mountain astrophysical observatory in the former Soviet Union. The main directions of the observatory’s scientific research are the study of galaxies, stars, solar physics, solar system errors, and the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Astronomical observatories are usually built outside the city, away from emissions, artificial light, dust, and industrial buildings. Natural clear sky is required for large periods of the year as well. This is why observatories are often located high in the mountains and far from populated areas. The air in the mountains is cleaner, clearer and visibility is better. This is exactly the case with Kanobli Mountain in Abastman, where most of the nights of the year are clear skies and climatic environment is the best for observing the stars.
Unique conditions for Kanobili astronomical observations were shown by the observations of the famous Russian astronomer S. Glazenap in the 90s of the XIX century. Expeditions from the Leningrad Astronomical Institute and the Astronomical Observatory of Leningrad State University began in 1932, and a temporary observation deck was set up on the mountain, equipped with a 13-cm Ceiss refractor and a 15-cm Reinfold comet finder. A little later, in the same year, active work began to set up an observatory, laboratories were set up, measuring instruments were brought in, they started workshops, a scientific library was opened, and public lectures were given. In 1942, Georgian astronomer Giorgi Tevzadze discovered two previously unknown new tailed stars, the Comets. The name was called “Comet 1942 Tevzadze 1” and “Comet 1942 Tevzadze 2”, respectively. This was the first astronomical discovery by Georgians in history.
Currently, there are up to fifteen stellar and solar telescopes in the technical base of the entire observatory.
According to the research plan few observations are being made in Abastumani: on large bear double-type variable stars, electrophotometric observations on different types of variable stars in the focus of the 33-cm reflector Nesmith; Determining the color indicators of faint stars in dark nebulae; Observations of the Solar Service Union Program by means of a spectrohelioscope-heliograph; Experimental observations on a 44 cm Schmidt anesthesia telescope; Observations of actinometric and other geophysical nature; Theoretical studies in the field of astrophysics, planetary nebulae, new stars. (Source: History of Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory, Ilia State University)
Since 1961, the Observatory has also had an annual publication, the Astronomical Calendar, and an Observatory Bulletin.
Abastumani Observatory has made many world-class discoveries: 2 comets, several small planets, 6 new, one recurring new and 8 supernovae, 17 planetary nebulae, 3 star clusters, multiple emission stars, including 2 Wolf-Ray stars.
The observatory joined Ilia State University in 2007 and actively started various educational and scientific research processes. At the same time, Ilia State University resumed the teaching of astronomy, which had been suspended in Georgia for years.
In 2019, by government decree, the observatory was separated from the university and established as a separate LEPL. Unfortunately, as the observatory staff says, the exact future action plan of the observatory is still unknown, which puts the fate of this historic place in uncertaintity. The Abastumani Observatory currently owns about 10 telescopes, although most of them are out of order. The largest, the 125-centimeter telescope, which broke down in 2011, is still not functioning and is preventing the observatory from actively working on bigger projects. Whereas before the observatory had about 70 scientists, now there are only 7-8 staff members left on the ground and like the last warriors they guard the history, significance and future of this place.
Travel in Abastumani
The observatory, in addition to its scientific-research purpose, is also a very interesting place for education and tourism. A small museum on site tells the whole history of the observatory, and visitors can also look through a telescope. According to the new project of the Municipal Development Fund, a cafe, a renovated museum, a planetarium and other tourist places should be opened in the observatory building soon.
Abastumani is one of the most famous mountain-balneological resorts in Georgia, but now it is abandoned and only half-restored. Abastumani sustainable development plan and strategy have already been drawn up. According to the latter, Abastumani should be developed as a health, scientific-educational and family recreation resort and become one of the most important areas in Georgia. This amazing place covered with coniferous forest is really impressive and will hopefully be brought to life soon.