In the small Armenian village of Byurakan, against the backdrop of Mount Aragats, one of the country’s highest spots, several silver domes can be seen shining in the sun. These domes cover the Byurakan Observatory, a premier astronomical center which was established during the Soviet era.
The man behind the observatory’s establishment is an Armenian hero, who led many advancements in astrophysics, both in the country and globally: Victor Ambartsumian (also styled Viktor Hambardzumyan). He was one of the earliest to work in the field of theoretical astrophysics and one of its pioneers.
The observatory was founded in 1946 and is home to what was for several years the largest telescope in the USSR, a 2.6m Cassegrain reflector. Under Ambartsumian’s leadership, studies at the observatory related to instability phenomena around the universe, which remains the cornerstone of their research program today. Ambartsumian himself lived near the facility and conducted experiments till he passed away in 1996.
Armenia has a long history of astronomical study dating back several thousand years and the observatory played a crucial part bringing it into the realm of modern science and study. The campus, owned by the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, was designed by the famous Soviet architect Samvel Safaryan and now houses five large observational instruments.
The grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained, and the observatory hosts guided tours in several languages for a few dollars and also accepts proposals to use its powerful telescopes.