Observatory and museum that played an important role in the history of science — You are standing at a location with a long history and an extraordinary function for the city of Utrecht. It is from here that the stars and celestial bodies in the never-ending space above you were observed and studied.
The place where the observatory and museum Sonnenborgh is now situated, was once part of the various defences along the Stadsbuitengracht (City’s Outer Canal). To defend the city, several bastions were constructed along the Utrecht moat. Manenborgh and Sterrenburg are other examples of bastions where you still come across old private homes and casements.
In the 18th century, the old Smeetoren (Smee tower) was converted to an observatory. Slightly later, Buys Ballot supervised the construction of a professional astronomic observatory in bastion Sonnenborgh.
Buys Ballot also founded the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) in exactly the same location in 1851. In 1897, the KNMI moved to De Bilt, where it is still located. After the move, Sonnenborgh was used as an observatory and nowadays it also serves as a meteorological museum.
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