Text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
Design Florin Alexandru Stancu

In 2018-04-30
during the time of the Global Astronomy Month
I celebrated in a personal manner 110 years since
the first Romanian astronomical society was founded,
taking a picture with the Sun above the Bucharest Municipal Observatory,
which is named after its creator, Admiral Vasile Urseanu.

In fact, it is to say that
the beginnings of the amateur astronomy movement in Romania
dates from the second half of the 19th century
(its existence gave birth to people able to create professional institutions,
such as the military observatory in 1895 and the state observatory in 1908)
and, as a consequence of its development,
Victor Anestin (who was also a unionist patriot)
founded the Flammarion Romanian Astronomical Society in 1908
(named after the famous president of the French Astronomical Society),
chose representatives of the Romanian provinces
(one of them even from Transylvania - which belonged to
the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time -
and one from the ethnic minorities)
in its leadership
and proposed Vasile Urseanu (both a professional military
and an amateur astronomer) as its president.

In his turn, the admiral made the observatory building
(in the form of a yacht!)
as a gesture of gratitude for that honour.

Thus, the Municipal Observatory
(which was ready even before the Bucharest state observatory -
although that one was founded in 1908,
its main building was finalized only in 1912)
has remained the main material legacy
particularly from that astronomical society
and generally from the amateur astronomy movement
from the era of King Carol I
(who ruled Romania for 48 years - 1866-1914),
while the main spiritual legacy has remained
the content of the magazine Orion
(its collection is also kept by the observatory library),
founded in 1907 and edited by the same Victor Anestin,
in which he published articles, essays and observations
made by him and many others -
including amateur astronomers, future symbols in Romanian astronomy,
and even Romanian sky lovers from the surrounding empires -
and, not in the least, astronomical poems by Mihai Eminescu,
Gabriel Donna and Alexandru Anestin…

Unfortunately, the first Romanian astronomical society
did not live too much:
it depended on Victor Anestin’s abilities of organizer,
and he died in 1918…

So that the observatory building was overtaken by the Romanian state
soon after the death of Vasile Urseanu (in 1926),
and was opened to the public at large in the 1950s.

Unfortunately, too, if in the first part of the 20th century
the emplacement of the observatory was rather in a quiet zone,
the development of Romania’s Capital City
transformed that position into a central one,
right on the main artery of circulation,
strongly affected by noise and light pollution.

Fortunately, the observatory was recently renovated,
an operation which covered a few years in the 2010s…

That’s why in 2018-08-10,
after I found that the circulation was stopped for a few hours
on that boulevard for “municipal” reasons,
I decided to walk through that zone to taste the perfume of an older epoch
just because the Lascar Catargiu Boulevard
(named after an important Romanian politician from the 19th century),
is famous for its aristocratic palaces and villas
from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

But it seems I was not too inspired, the trees and the semidarkness
(it was shortly before the fall of the evening)
disturbed the visibility of my urban expedition.

A new (and hurried) vision of the observatory...

Then, to complete the concept,
I continued to walk on the second segment of the boulevard.

One day later a special idea made me return to the observatory,
but first I remarked the interesting illumination
of the former house of Dinu Lipatti
(a great Romanian pianist who emigrated to Switzerland
to avoid the communist regime -
installed by the Soviet Union in Romania after World War II),
which is transformed into the House of Arts today,
with the portrait of the Romanian national poet, Mihai Eminescu,
at the entrance.

A few years ago I dedicated an on-line project
to the memory of Admiral Vasile Urseanu,
in which I tried a figurative connection to the planet Mars,
the god of the war in Roman mythology,
just because this hero in the Romanian Independence War
against the Ottoman Empire in 1877-78
was a model man who left the guns for the peace of astronomy.

But this time I could photograph the planet Mars
(around its greatest opposition in the last 15 years)
right near the observatory.

Then I made an astro-haiga,
which I first published (at a smaller dimension)
in the Astropoetry Blog of Astronomers Without Borders.

In 2019-12-14 I returned to the Urseanu Observatory,
following the sunset on the main artery of Bucharest,
between two other symbols of Romanian astronomy:
the observatory of the National Children’s Palace (made in 1984)
and the façade of the house of astronomer Spiru Haret,
the Ministry of the Public Instruction during the time
of the Flammarion Romanian Astronomical Society,
a friend and sustainer of Victor Anestin.

It was semi-darkness again,
but this time I consoled myself considering that
the moment reflects better the Urseanu Observatory
as a winner through the time midst.

Obviously, the spirit of the Flammarion Romanian Astronomical Society
cannot be particularly confiscated by anyone,
but it must be continued, after the own powers,
by each group of sky lovers in Romania.

In this respect, I proudly remember that
the Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy (SARM)
was the only national organization in the world that,
during the largest ever global astronomy festival
(100 Hours of Astronomy during International Year of Astronomy 2009),
organized events in two countries,
Romania (a few tens)
and the second Romanian state, Moldova
(an event at an elite high school in Chisinau),
just like in the past
the Flammarion Romanian Astronomical Society used to cooperate,
especially in the pages of the magazine Orion,
with Romanian sky lovers from Diaspora.

I knew I was in an intermediary year between two jubilees,
110 years from the creation of the first astronomical society (1908-2018)
and 110 tears from the creation of its observatory (1910-2020),
so that I decided to visit the Urseanu Observatory as soon as possible
to see its new interior aspect after the renovation.

I also decided to end this project dedicated to the beginnings
of the amateur astronomy movement in Romania
with three other special photo-visions of its symbol building,
the main keeper of its old traditions:

It is not just a caprice,
It is rather cosmic variety
To try to understand an
Old astronomical society.


© 2019 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)