University College London Observatory
University College London Observatory
Initially established as a University of London facility (as reflected in the name until 2015!), the Observatory has been exclusively managed by University College London since 1951. It is a hands-on teaching observatory, part of the Astrophysics Group in UCL’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.
We are equipped with five permanently mounted telescopes, two lecture/classrooms, and a specialist astronomy library. We are reasonably easily accessible from the main Bloomsbury campus, ensuring that students have good access to the telescopes.
In addition to observing, students are trained in data-reduction techniques, the practical applications of astrophysical theory, and computational astronomy. This training can take place in the context of an undergraduate degree module, a student project, or, for interested members of the public, as part of our higher-education Certificate in Astronomy
UCLO remains active in scientific inquiry, with a strong observational research programme in extrasolar planets. We are in the process of expanding our observing capabilities with the development of unattended (remote & robotic) observing modes, which we hope will culminate in a new large robotic telescope, a project for which funding is currently underway.
Location (lat, long): 51° 36’ 48”, -0° 14’ 32” (N 51°.613305, W 0°.242166)
Getting to UCLO
The Observatory is located off the northbound carriageway of the A1 in Mill Hill, North London. (There is no vehicular access from the southbound carriageway; pedestrians on the southbound side of the road must use the under-road subway just north of the Observatory.) It is easily reached by public transport:
We discourage arrival by car; entry to the site from the Watford Way is hazardous (drop-offs even more so), and there is no parking for tour visitors on site. A large, free public car park is located nearby, in Daws Lane (postcode for satnav is NW7 4SL; the subsequent short walk to UCLO is via the A1 pedestrian underpass, most easily reached from the alley that runs along the western side of Royal Mail Mill Hill Delivery Office). Parking is also available in the Mill Hill Broadway railway-station car park in Bunn’s Lane (pay & display, but free after 18:30).
Disabled visitors should contact us in advance to enquire about access; note that the site is not wheelchair-friendly, and has steep stairways.
Click through for a Google Map, or UK Street Map. The Observatory is on the north-bound side of Watford Way dual carriageway. (If in doubt, note that the Observatory domes are easily identifiable by zooming in on Google Maps’ ‘satellite view’ or street view.)
The most convenient way to get to UCLO from central London is by the Thameslink rail service to Mill Hill Broadway (Travelcard zone 4), followed by a 10–15-minute walk to the Observatory.
The line has a number of stations in central London, including City Thameslink, Farringdon, and St. Pancras International. Journey times from Farringon and St. Pancras International are about 20 minutes. Oyster cards can be used on this route.
Trains run several times an hour throughout the day; timetables are available through the Thameslink web site.
Another useful resource for journey planning is the National Rail web site or call National Rail Enquiries on 0845 748 4950.
Bus service 113 stops on the A1 (Watford Way) just past UCLO.
[For the “scenic route” you can catch the 113 from Oxford Street – but allow ample time for the journey!]
Services 186, 221, 240, and 251 stop at Mill Hill Broadway, a 10–15-minute walk from UCLO via Hartley Avenue.
Because bus timetables and routes change from time to time, we recommend that you check the Transport for London web site before travel.
There are no nearby tube stations; the closest are Mill Hill East (shuttle service to Finchley Central on the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line) and Colindale & Burnt Oak stations (Edgeware branch of the Northern Line), each around 2.5km distant (30–40 minutes on foot).
For tube travellers, the following may be tolerably convenient options:
- Take the Northern Line (Edgware branch) to Hendon Central, then Bus 186 or 113 (the northbound bus-stops are over the road and up the hill from the tube station). These buses take about 10 minutes to reach a stop just past UCLO (although waiting times can be long).
- Alternatively, take Bus Service 221 from Mill Hill East to Mill Hill Broadway (approx. 20 min) or Service 240 to Mill Hill Broadway Station (approx. 13 min).
London Underground information is available at www.tfl.gov.uk/tube/ or call 0845 330 9880.
The simplest way to get to UCLO from UCL is to catch any eastbound tube from Euston Square to Farringdon, then change platform to catch a Thameslink mainline train towards Luton or St Albans, disembarking at Mill Hill Broadway. (Mainline trains run every 15–20 minutes during the day; journey time is 20–25 min.)
[The TfL journey planner may advise connecting at Kings Cross St. Pancras/St. Pancras International, but the interchange is much less straightforward.]
It’s then about 800m (somewhat over half a mile; a 10–15-minute walk) to the Observatory