Pic du Midi de Bigorre

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Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Pic du Midi du Bigorre.jpg
Highest point
Elevation2,877 m (9,439 ft)
Coordinates42°56′11″N 0°08′34″E / 42.93639°N 0.14278°E / 42.93639; 0.14278Coordinates: 42°56′11″N 0°08′34″E / 42.93639°N 0.14278°E / 42.93639; 0.14278
Pic du Midi de Bigorre is located in Pyrenees
Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Parent rangePyrenees

The Pic du Midi de Bigorre or simply the Pic du Midi (elevation 2,877 m (9,439 ft)) is a mountain in the French Pyrenees famous for its Pic du Midi Observatory.

Pic du Midi Observatory[edit]

The Pic du Midi Observatory at 2870 m in the Pyrenees in the south of France
Minor planets discovered: 9 [1]
see § List of discovered minor planets

The Pic du Midi Observatory (French: Observatoire du Pic du Midi) is an astronomical observatory located at 2877 meters on top of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre mountain in the French Pyrenees. It is part of the Midi-Pyrenees Observatory (French: Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées; OMP) which has additional research stations in the southwestern French towns of Tarbes, Lannemezan, and Auch, as well as many partnerships in South America, Africa, and Asia, due to the guardianship it receives from the French Research Institute for Development (IRD).[2][3][4]

Construction of the observatory began in 1878 under the auspices of the Société Ramond, but by 1882 the society decided that the spiralling costs were beyond its relatively modest means, and yielded the observatory to the French state, which took it into its possession by a law of 7 August 1882. The 8 metre dome was completed in 1908, under the ambitious direction of Benjamin Baillaud. It housed a powerful mechanical equatorial reflector which was used in 1909 to formally discredit the Martian canal theory.[3]:46 In 1946 Mr. Gentilli funded a dome and a 0.60-meter telescope, and in 1958, a spectrograph was installed.[3][5]

A 1.06-meter (42-inch) telescope was installed in 1963, funded by NASA and was used to take detailed photographs of the surface of the Moon in preparation for the Apollo missions. In 1965 the astronomers Pierre and Janine Connes were able to formulate a detailed analysis of the composition of the atmospheres on Mars and Venus, based on the infrared spectra gathered from these planets. The results showed atmospheres in chemical equilibrium. This served as a basis for James Lovelock, a scientist working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, to predict that those planets had no life - a fact that would be proven and scientifically accepted years after.[6]

A 2-meter telescope, known as the Bernard Lyot Telescope was placed at the observatory in 1980 on top of a 28-meter column built off to the side to avoid wind turbulence affecting the seeing of the other telescopes. It is the largest telescope in France. The observatory also has a coronagraph, which is used to study the solar corona. A 0.60-meter telescope (the Gentilly's T60 telescope) is also located at the top of Pic du Midi. Since 1982 this T60 is dedicated to amateur astronomy and managed by a group of amateurs, called association T60.[6]

The Pic du Midi Observatory as seen from the ascending cable car

There are currently at the top:

  • The 0.55-meter telescope (Robley Dome);
  • The 0.60-meter telescope (T60 Dome, welcoming amateur astronomers via the Association T60);
  • The 1.06-meter telescope (Gentilli Dome) dedicated to observations of the solar system;
  • The 2-meter telescope or Bernard Lyot Telescope (used with a new generation stellar spectropolarimeter);
  • The coronagraph HACO-CLIMSO (studies of the solar corona);
  • The bezel Jean Rösch (studies of the solar surface)


  • The Charvin dome, which sheltered a photoelectric coronometer (which studied the Sun);
  • The Baillaud dome, reassigned to the museum in 2000 and which houses a 1:1 scale model coronagraph.

The observatory is located at 42°56′N 0°8′E / 42.933°N 0.133°E / 42.933; 0.133, placing it very close to the Greenwich meridian. The observatory was featured in the video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 under a different name. The observatory in-game is said to be located on the fictional Pic des Pyrenees.

Saturn's moon Helene (Saturn XII or Dione B), was discovered by French astronomers Pierre Laques and Jean Lecacheux (MPC) in 1980 from ground-based observations at this observatory,[7] and named Helene in 1988. It is also a trojan moon of Dione.

The main-belt asteroid 20488 Pic-du-Midi, discovered at Pises Observatory in 1999, was named for the observatory and the mountain its located on.[2]

List of discovered minor planets[edit]

The Minor Planet Center credits the discovery of the following minor planets directly to the observatory (as of 2017, no discoveries have been assigned to individual astronomers):[1]

(63609) 2001 QY72 20 August 2001 list
82896 Vaubaillon 22 August 2001 list
155948 Maquet 21 August 2001 list
210245 Castets 13 September 2007 list
230151 Vachier 20 August 2001 list
(231969) 2001 QD94 24 August 2001 list
275786 Bouley 20 August 2001 list
281272 Arnaudleroy 10 September 2007 list
(336811) 2011 DL21 23 August 2001 list

International Dark Sky Reserve[edit]

Officially initiated in 2009, during the international year of astronomy, the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) was labeled in 2013 by the International Dark-Sky Association.[8] It's the sixth in the world, the first in Europe and the only one still today in France.

The IDSR aims to limit the exponential propagation of light pollution, in order to preserve the quality of the night. Co-managed by the Syndicat mixte for the tourist promotion of the Pic du Midi,[9] the Pyrénées National Park[10] and the Departmental Energy Union 65,[11] its priority actions are the public education on the impacts and consequences of these pollutions as well as the establishment of responsible lighting in the Haut-Pyrenean territory.

It covers 3,000 km2, or 65% of the Hautes-Pyrénées. The IDSR includes 251 communes spread around the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and is distinguished in two zones:

  • A core zone, devoid of any permanent lighting and witnessing an exceptional night quality;
  • A buffer zone, in which the territory actors recognize the importance of the nocturnal environment and undertake to protect it.

Dynamic on the territory, the IDSR is notably initiator of the program "Ciel Etoilé" (Starry sky),[12] program of reconversion of the 40 000 luminous points of its territory, the program "Gardiens des Etoiles" (Guardians of the stars),[13] program of metrological monitoring of the light pollution evolution, but also the program "Adap'Ter", project that will identify "trames sombres" (Dark frame: nocturnal biodiversity deplacements).[14]


Pic du Midi de Bigorre has an extremely rare mediterranean alpine climate with a polar temperature regime courtesy of its high elevation. Due to the Gulf Stream moderation of the surrounding lowlands, temperature swings are in general quite low. This results in temperatures rarely exceeding 20 °C (68 °F) even during lowland heat waves, and also temperatures beneath −25 °C (−13 °F) being extremely rare. The UV index is higher than in the surrounding lowlands due to the elevation. Snow cover is permanent during winter months, but melts for a few months each year. Seasonal lag is extreme during winter and spring, with February being the clearly coldest month, and May having mean temperatures below freezing. Among lowland climates, the station closely resembles Nuuk in Greenland for the temperature regime.

Climate data for Pic du Midi de Bigorre (1981–2010 normals; extremes 1973–2017)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 6.3
Average high °C (°F) −4.0
Daily mean °C (°F) −6.7
Average low °C (°F) −9.9
Record low °C (°F) −22.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 79.4
Average precipitation days 13.4 9.3 11.3 11.1 13.0 10.8 4.8 7.6 7.9 10.3 10.3 14.7 124.5
Source #1: Météo Climat [15]
Source #2: Météo Climat [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (20488) Pic-du-Midi. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 862. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Davoust, E. (December 1997). "A Hundred Years of Science at the PIC du Midi Observatory". ASP Conference Series. 141: 39. arXiv:astro-ph/9707201. Bibcode:1998ASPC..141...39D. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  4. ^ "The Observatory Midi-Pyrénées". OMP – Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ "La creation de l'observatoire du Pic-du-Midi de Bigorre" [History of the observatory on the Pic du Midi de Bigorre]. ramond-societe.com (in French). La Société Ramond. Archived from the original on 7 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b Lovelock, James. The Vanishing Face of Gaia. Basic Books, 2009, p. 162. ISBN 978-0-465-01549-8
  7. ^ IAUC 3496: Satellites of Saturn 1980 July 31 (discovery)
  8. ^ http://www.darksky.org/idsp/
  9. ^ http://picdumidi.com/
  10. ^ http://www.pyrenees-parcnational.fr/fr
  11. ^ http://www.sde-65.com/
  12. ^ http://www.sde-65.com/reserve-internationale-ciel-etoile/
  13. ^ https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2012/05/24/1360479-l-operation-gardiens-des-etoiles-sur-orbite.html
  14. ^ http://www.pyrenees-parcnational.fr/fr/des-actions/encourager-lexcellence-environnementale/lutter-contre-le-changement-climatique/attenuer
  15. ^ "French climate normals 1981-2010". Météo Climat. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Weather extremes for Pic du Midi de Bigorre". Météo Climat. Retrieved 19 September 2018.

External links[edit]