Development of the Hans-Haffner Observatory

Besides biology, chemistry and physics, astronomy is the fourth classical natural science.

Thus, astronomy has been part of the student laboratory at FKG from the very beginning, even if only with a single small telescope: One of the first objects procured for the laboratory was a Newtonian telescope with a 20 centimeter mirror diameter on a Dobson mount.

With time, the desire for better observation possibilities grew and so the idea of building an observatory was born.

Due to the light conditions the school grounds were ruled out as a possible location. In our search for a suitable site, we found an enthusiastic supporter in the then mayor of Hettstadt, Eberhard Götz, from the very beginning, and not only because about ten percent of the students of the FKG came from the community of Hettstadt.

So the observatory of the student laboratory was built in the district of Hettstadt from 2007 to 2009.

Since there were no public funds available for this project, the construction of the observatory could only be realized by the students and teachers themselves in close cooperation with parents and other extracurricular partners from industry and crafts. From the very beginning of the planning phase, students and teachers participated equally in the team.

The municipality of Hettstadt acquired the land especially for the construction of the observatory and left it to the Naturwissenschaftliches Labor für Schüler am FKG e.V. in hereditary lease for a symbolic ground rent. The municipality also actively supported the project with the construction measures and the provision of the necessary infrastructure.

The planning was carried out by an architect from the FKG's parent advisory board. The FKG's partner company, the printing press manufacturer Koenig & Bauer AG, agreed to build the dome free of charge. The design team of trainers, engineers and vocational students of Koenig & Bauer AG was strengthened by a Würzburg engineering office.

A master bricklayer from the FKG's parents provided the technical expertise and directed the zest for action of the countless helpers in the right direction. In addition, he and his staff carried out the more complex work.

On the building site, the distribution of roles between teachers and students very quickly changed towards a partnership at eye level. Increasingly, the students took on subtasks on their own initiative, including in the area of work organization.

The great commitment of the pupils, who worked on the construction of the observatory in the afternoons, weekends and especially during the vacations, made it easier to find further cooperation partners. At this point it should be emphasized that all external partners worked free of charge or at cost price.

Inauguration of the Hans-Haffner Observatory

Thus, after months of hard work, the observatory was inaugurated on December 18th of 2009, in time for the end of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. On this day, the project was presented to a broad and interested public as well as to representatives from science and politics, and at the same time, the external partners were publicly thanked. The keynote speech was held by Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz, Director of the Astrophysical Institute in Potsdam and Chairman of the Association of German Observatories.

During 2010, the telescopes were installed, set up and adjusted at the observatory. This was done in close cooperation with staff of the Chair of Astronomy at the University of Würzburg. Once again, numerous students were involved in this phase.

The first main instrument was a Schmidt-Cassegrain LX 200 telescope from Meade with a mirror diameter of 30 cm.

Since the winter semester 2010/11, the Chair of Astronomy has been conducting part of the practical training of students at the observatory. Pupils are always invited to the seminars and exercises. Especially students studying to become teachers can thus be involved in the professional supervision of individual sub-projects and thus gain experience in dealing with students already during their studies.

In 2011 the idea was born to involve the students in the scientific research of the chair. The project "Fluctuations in the brightness of active galaxy nuclei" developed from this idea.

The existing telescope was too small for the CCD images required for this purpose.

After some applications for financing a larger telescope were not successful, the University of Würzburg was finally able to procure a telescope with mount from funds of the University of Würzburg, which was put into operation in early 2012.

Both sides benefit from the close partnership between the student laboratory and the Chair of Astronomy: The students' laboratory has access to the chair's high-quality astronomical equipment and this access to an observatory with very good observation conditions. This is important because Würzburg otherwise has only one public observatory, which is located in a now heavily built-up area and can therefore only be used with restrictions due to the existing light pollution.

In 2016 the partnership was put on a firm foundation. Through a cooperation agreement, the observatory, named after Prof. Dr. Hans Haffner since 2012, became a school and university observatory.

In 2017, the Hans Haffner Observatory was extended by a three-meter radio telescope.