Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary Exhibitions: Discoveries, Transitions, and Frontiers


Stamp issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation in celebration of Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary. The stamp was designed by Randell G. Teodoro, research staff of the Solid Earth Dynamics program of Manila Observatory.

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Manila Observatory presented three exhibitions: Discoveries (1865–1940), Transitions (1940–1990), and Frontiers (1990- Present). The Exhibition is housed at the Solar Research Building. This building was designed to house the spectroheliograph which was operated by Fr. Richard A. Miller, SJ, Fr. James J. Hennessey, SJ and Fr. Francis J. Heyden, SJ from 1965 up to the late 1990s:

“A combination solar spectroheliograph and spectrograph, newly installed in the Philippines at 8-h East longitude is described. The rotatable vacuum spectrograph follows an Ebert design, consisting of a plane grating and two mirrors. These off-axis mirrors are figured sections of one single mirror form and function as collimating and camera mir- rors. The spectrograph system matches the f/24 Gregorian-type telescopic quartz mirror system of 30.5-cm clear aperture, fed by 41-cm coelostat mirrors. The grating drive is wholly within the tank. Spectroheliograph scans are with fixed slits but with a moving image and moving plate or filmholder. Slit jaws are of stainless steel and form slits 76 mm long. Dispersion is 2.75 A/mm in the first order. An 8.3-cm x10.8-cm plateholder receives the spectrogram or spectroheliogram image. Visual monitoring and 35-mm photographs of the solar image at the entrance slit are made through an Ha Halle monochromator. A typical spectrogram and spectroheliogram are shown.” —R. A. Miller, Applied Optics, 4(9), 1085–1089 (1965).

The members of the MO 150th Anniversary Exhibition Committee came from different research programs of the observatory:

  • Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza (Committee Head), Niño Uy and Melliza T. Cruz of UAQ / ITD (Urban Air Quality / Instrumentation Technology Development)
  • Randell G. Teodoro of SED (Solid Earth Dynamics)
  • Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr. of UAD (Upper Atmosphere Dynamics)
  • Mariel Templanza of Archives

Yael A. Buencamino, Managing Curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery, served as project consultant.

A. Discoveries (1865–1940)

The first exhibition, Discoveries, showcases the beginnings and rapid growth of the Manila Observatory from 1865 under the Spanish government, and its reorganization under the American administration from 1901 up until World War II.  From its humble beginnings in an abandoned pigeon house, the Meteorological Service of the Philippines known as the Observatorio Meteorológica de Manila was established under the Royal decree issued by the King of Spain in 1884.  The Observatorio was later recognized as the Philippine Weather Bureau after the passage of a bill in 1901 under the American government.  Through the intersection of excellence in scientific research and the Observatory’s mission to serve the community, the Jesuit forefathers made significant contributions in the fields of Meteorology, Seismology, and Astronomy.  (Exhibition Dates: April– June 2015)

B. Transitions (1940-1990)

Transitions Exhibition showcases the rise of the Manila Observatory from the ruins of the Second World War.  After the government decided to establish its own Philippine Weather Bureau run by Filipinos, the Jesuits of the Observatory discerned on its new direction for six long years while waiting for the reconstruction funds from the Philippine War Damage Commission: the Manila Observatory shall focus on seismology and sun-earth relationship. These new research directions were at the frontiers during those times: Russia launched its Sputnik satellite only in 1957 and the Plate Tectonic theory was firmly established only in 1965. (Exhibition Dates: July–August 2015)

C. Frontiers (1990–Present)

The timeline of the Frontiers Exhibition is from 1865 to the present, and will also encompass, in part, our vision for the future.  Since its inception in 1865, the Manila Observatory remained consistent in responding to the needs of the country, making incremental contributions to challenging Science questions that affect our people’s quality of life.  In the 1990’s, with disproportionate use of fossil fuel, climate change is more obvious and became alive in our consciousness as an institution.  We recognized the changing needs of our country, region and also our planet.  Combined with our increasing poverty and population density, this global problem makes us more vulnerable especially in the face of extreme weather events, worsening air pollution, and natural geophysical hazards.  It is in the light of these that the Observatory established its present Science Agenda to address the challenges of sustainable develop- ment and poverty reduction through centers focused on advancing its mission across the following areas: remote sensing and ground-based environmental observations; climate change, variability, and extremes; disaster risk and sustainable development; and public health and human vulnerability.  As a Jesuit scientific research institution, the Manila Observatory remains committed to venture to the scientific peripheries in service of the community.


About quirinosugonjr
Physics professor and corporate blogger

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