THE OBSERVATORY in Partizánske now houses replicas of two concrete observatory towers that were built by Milan Rastislav Štefánik, the Slovak statesman, astronomer and world traveller, in 1911 to observe a total eclipse of the sun on April 28 of that year on the Pacific island of Vava’u.
František Kele, head of last year’s expedition that tracked Štefánik’s activities as an astronomer on islands in the Pacific, was able to find the original towers on Vava’u and documents about their construction. He told the TASR newswire that the observation towers are a unique part of the cultural heritage of Slovakia.
“I came to the conclusion in 2009 that it would be great to bring the towers back to Slovakia; this site is the only palpable evidence of Štefánik’s activities in the southern hemisphere,” Kele stated. Later he was advised by a friend and several astronomers that the original towers should stay where they were “born” and he agreed and decided to make replicas.
Kele added that the public response to the discovery of the original towers was enormous. Several Slovak expat associations from Sydney in Australia have shown interest in taking care of the observatory towers in the coming years. “Without due care, the towers are condemned to disintegrate,” Kele said.
The idea to place the replicas in the Partizánske observatory was supported by the Association of M. R. Štefánik, which has a strong and active branch in this town in western Slovakia. “Our expedition to the Pacific was under the auspices of this association,” Kele added. There are plans to add a model telescope from that period to each tower so they provide a complete image of how they were used by Štefánik. Vava’u is a tropical island that is part of the Kingdom of Tonga and lies in the South Pacific Ocean.
7. May 2012 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská