The Location

Skinakas Observatory is located on top of the Ida mountain in Central Crete at an altitude of 1750m. Its Longitude is 240 53 ' 57 '' East and its Latitude 350 12 ' 43 '' North. 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 road, nearly 20km before Skinakas, one passes the traditional 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 well known cave where, according to the greek mythology, Zeus the mighty olympian god, grew up as an infant.

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



Astronomical Quality





It is well known that atmospheric turbulence seriously limits the resolution of earth-bound telescopes. Although a star appears as an unresolved point source outside the atmosphere, for example when observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, the same star would appear as an extended disk, the so-called "seeing disk", when observed from a telescope on the Earth’s surface. This effects often makes images taken from the ground less sharp. Astronomical sites with excellent seeing conditions are therefore extremely important for high resolution optical observations. Using a two-aperture Differential Image Motion Monitor (DIMM), which is a device measuring the seeing, it was shown that the Skinakas Summit is indeed an excellent site – in fact one of the best known so far in the Mediterranean area.

The seeing observations took place from the beginning to the end of randomly chosen astronomical nights from June to September 2000 and from May to June 2001 (43 nights in total). Examples of two such nights of the Skinakas DIMM measurements are presented to the top left. The diagrams show that the seeing does not change rapidly at Skinakas during the observing night, staying within 0.3”. Extremely good seeing values have been measured often (0.4”), with the best measured ~0.23”. Also, two histograms with the seeing measurements for the year 2000 and 2001 are given. The median seeing for the two periods was 0.64” and 0.69” respectively. 





Night Sky Brightness and Spectrum



Night sky BVR brightness observations were conducted in August 2008 and revealed that Skinakas Observatory is a dark site, with the exception of the direction towards the city of Heraklion (North East). The night sky surface brightness towards zenith was found to be
Bz = 22.55, Vz = 21.74, Rz = 21.18
in absolute magnitudes per square arcsecond.

When a zenith correction was applied to the sky magnitudes, the mean values of the night sky surface brightness ( over all sky pointings used) were
<B>=22.36 ± 0.16, <V> =21.60 ± 0.14, <R>=21.07 ± 0.14
in absolute magnitudes per square arcsecond. For further details, see here.


Skinakas night sky spectrum, along with an estimate of the contribution of the light pollution lines to the sky brightness can be found here.