The Twin Dome, University of St Andrews

The Twin Dome

From 1983 to 1992 the smaller of the observatory buildings at the University of St Andrews was the home of the Twin Photometric Telescope. This was two 50 cm telescopes on a mount, tailor-made for high-precision photometric monitoring with one telescope for the variable star and one for a reference star.

After 1992 the twin telescope was - for reasons which I've never fully quite understood - no longer serviceable. Various parts of it came to be of use in other facilities at the university but all that remained in the small observatory building was the concrete plinth on which it once stood. So the building stood empty - but for a nice round-shaped storeroom - for many years until very recently. 

With the support of observatory director Aleks Scholz and School of Physics and Astronomy technician Stephen King, I have been able to use the building as a kind of arts/astronomy research space and, most importantly, a space where we have been able to mount several public exhibitions particularly during the Observatory open nights in December and February.

On one of the earliest occasions that that Aleks and I met at the building Aleks said that we should meet "outside the twin dome". So I was a bit confused as I walked up to the building that I assumed we were talking about, when I could see that it very clearly just has the one dome - unlike the Napier building nearby which now boasts three. I realised that the "twin" reference was regarding the telescopes that were once inside but I grew to like the idea of a building that isn't quite what it seems and the name has stuck.

Drawing for the Twin Dome
Twin photometric telescope