Experience Višnjan

World-famous asteroid hunters

In Višnjan, a millennial little town not far from Poreč, you will find the world’s second most successful observatory in discovering and monitoring of asteroids - potential threats to our planet. Believe it or not, in 2019 this small observatory did more than half of the total discovery and monitoring work associated with small astronomical objects passing by the Earth (NEO – Near Earth Objects). This puts it ahead of such research giants as the American army and European space agency; in fact, only NASA was more successful at this important work, recent stats have shown!

And yet, it’s small wonder for those in the know, as the observatory has excelled in this field for decades. Its leader Korado Korlević is one of the most successful asteroid hunters in history. By 2003, the observatory had already made 1748 discoveries. It had been among ten most productive observatories of all time, and the leading one in Europe by the number of asteroids discovered. By that time, teams in Višnjan decided on the names of the following asteroids they discovered - (9244) Višnjan, (9429) Poreč, (7364) Otonkučera and (9657) Učka. Also, two comets, P/1999 DN3 (Korlević-Jurić) and P/1999 WJ7 (Korlević) were automatically named after their discoverers.

Since its founding some 40 years ago, Višnjan observatory has also been running world-renowned scientific and education projects for gifted children and youth. For many scientists, now famous at home and abroad, summer projects organized in and around the observatory were the first steps into scientific thinking and methodology.

And it all started in 1970s, when an interest in space and stars sparked the founding of a local astronomy group. Lots of activity followed, led by several enthusiasts, and astronomy soon became an emblem of the local community. Educational projects were started, and the first telescope constructed. Instruments and equipment were automated, with first computers purchased and connected to the global network years before internet as we know it today came into existence. In mid-eighties fire destroyed much of the observatory work and material. Despite that, things didn’t stop. The venue was renovated, many new projects started, and the activity expanded to involve people from across South East Europe.

At the beginning of nineties, parts of the equipment constructed by astronomers in Višnjan were used in the defence of war-torn Sarajevo. In mid-90s, astronomers have set up a new telescope, and discovered their first asteroid. In the new millennium, Višnjan observatory became one of the 19 centres in the world’s network of excellence in education. Following years were marked by a steady increase in light pollution, which interfered with astronomers’ activity. Eventually, many projects were moved to a new location. New observatory was built on a nearby Tičan hill. Surrounded with a beautiful park and forest, it is a must-see for school excursions, families and all the travellers interested in stars, space and science. Every June, Tičan park hosts Astrofest, an interesting festival celebrating summer solstice. On that magical night, the shortest of the whole year, bonfires are lit, and stars observed. Legends say that fairies can even be seen visiting the Earth, so don’t miss the splendid midsummer night festivities in this beautiful astronomy park!

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