IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is compiling its own list of astronomical heritage sites that are outstanding in the history of astronomy but do not necessarily demonstrate potential Outstanding Universal Value which would be needed for inscription on the World Heritage List. For example, the period from the European Renaissance to the middle of the 20th century was an extremely rich one for the history of astronomy, with many observatories from this period playing a significant role because of the cutting-edge scientific research carried out there. However, the actual building may be damaged or destroyed and the original instruments may no longer exist in situ or at all.

For the moment, the IAU´s Outstanding Astronomical Heritage (OAH) list is focusing on such ‘classical observatories’. It includes, for example, Tycho Brahe’s observatory at Uraniborg, which is completely destroyed although a few of the instruments have been preserved or reconstructed. The OAH list was launched at the IAU’s 2018 General Assembly in Vienna and is steadily being extended—there are currently more than 70 OAH sites on the portal. You can view OAH sites on their own or alongside our other case studies by choosing the relevant filter options in the Heritage Finder.

IAU members who are interested in proposing new sites to the OAH list are invited to contact Gudrun Wolfschmidt, Past President of IAU Commission C4 (World Heritage and Astronomy), in the first instance. The OAH List is not open to members of the public, but we invite anyone who is interested to submit one or more Places connected to the Sky on this Portal.



Astronomical Heritage Finder - Legend

    Colours represent categories of astronomical heritage
  • Cultural - Tangible - Fixed
  • Cultural - Tangible - Movable
  • Cultural - Intangible
  • Cultural - Natural - Mixed
  • Natural - Dark Skies
  • Places connected to the Sky
    Shapes in relation to serial case studies
  • General description (main node)
  • Other nodes within the series

    Sizes represent different lists of Astronomical Heritage
  • AWHI, UNESCO, IAU lists
  • Places connected to the Sky
    RED represents Astronomical Heritage in danger
  • and   and   
The term `Heritage in danger´ is meant to inform the community that conditions prevail which threaten the very characteristics of that heritage (be it astronomical or otherwise), and to encourage corrective action. Armed conflict and war, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, poaching, uncontrolled urbanization and unchecked tourist development pose major problems for heritage, including astronomical heritage. Dangers can be ‘ascertained’, referring to specific and proven imminent threats, or ‘potential’, when there are threats that could have negative effects on the (astronomical) heritage values. Details of the actual dangers for a specific property can be found in the respective entity's description.