Madras Observatory

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Madras Observatory, 1880

The Madras Observatory was founded by the British East India Company in 1786 in Chennai (then Madras). For over a century it was the only astronomical observatory in India that exclusively worked on the stars. Among the astronomers at the observatory were Norman Robert Pogson, Michael Topping and John Goldingham. By 1899, it had been relegated to gathering weather-related data.

The 15-foot tall granite pillar weighing 10 tonnes, which carried the original transit equipment is still preserved and has the name of the architect, Michael Topping and the year A.D.MDCCXCII inscribed on it. Tamil and Telugu inscriptions are also carved on the pillar.

The observatory c. 1838

In 1855, William Stephen Jacob of the East India Observatory in Madras, India, found orbital anomalies in the binary star 70 Ophiuchi that he claimed were evidence of an extrasolar planet – the first exoplanet false alarm. The "discovery" began a 140-year period of other exoplanet discovery false alarms, but no actual exoplanets, orbiting any star, were discovered and confirmed until 1992.


Coordinates: 13°04′05″N 80°14′48″E / 13.06806°N 80.24667°E / 13.06806; 80.24667