Les 350 ans de l'Observatoire de Paris

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About us

Observatoire de Paris is the largest national center for research in astronomy and astrophysics, and also one of the most active in the world. Founded in 1667, it is the oldest observatory in the world that is still active. Situated on campuses in Paris, Meudon and Nançay, the establishment has three main objectives: research, teaching and popularization of science.

The Center 

Observatoire de Paris is a major center (Grand établissement) linked to the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

It is a founding member of the PSL Research University (Paris Sciences et Lettres), which combines 26 prestigious institutions in all domains of knowledge: sciences, arts, human and social sciences.


The research carried out at Observatoire de Paris covers all the fields of contemporary astronomy and astrophysics, as well as certain aspects of fundamental physics and the history of science.

The Observatory develops and implements national and international services and puts its knowledge at the service of major projects for the observation of the Universe. It thus contributes to developing large instruments (on the ground and in space), participates in major surveys and in large-scale simulations in its virtual observatory and is involved in laboratory work.

The science departments

Some 30 percent of French astronomers do their research at the Observatoire de Paris, working in one of its seven departments, all of which are associated with France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique  (CNRS – National Center for Scientific Research) and various centers for higher education, science and research:

  • Le département Galaxies, Etoiles, Physique et Instrumentation (GEPI - department for galaxies, stars, physics and instrumentation)
  • L’Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Ephémérides (IMCCE -Institute for Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Computation)
  • Le Laboratoire d’Etudes du Rayonnement et de la Matière en Astrophysique et Atmosphères (LERMA - Laboratory for the study of matter and radiation in astrophysics and atmospheres)
  • Le Laboratoire d’Etudes Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA - Laboratory for Space Studies and Astrophysical Instrumentation)
  • Le Laboratoire Univers et Théories (LUTH - Laboratory for the Universe and Theories)
  • Le département Systèmes de Référence Temps Espace (SYRTE - Department for Time and Space Reference Systems)
  • L’Unité Scientifique de Nançay (USN - the Nançay Scientific Unit)

The Observatory is also a secondary guardian for:

  • Le Laboratoire Astroparticule et Cosmologie (APC - Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory)
  • Le Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas (LPP - Plasma Physics  Laboratory)
  • L ’Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers en région Centre (OSUC - Center Regional Observatory for the Sciences of the Universe)
  • Teaching

Based on its research activity, the Paris Observatory offers training activities at all levels. At university level, it participates to PSL, co-directs the Science de l’Univers et des Technologies Spatiales (Science of the Universe and Space Technologies) masters course and awards doctorates.

Observatoire de Paris also participates in teacher training courses, providing courses and classroom activities; it also provides on-site and online training for all, leading to university diplomas.

These courses are under the responsibility of the scientific department  of l’Unité Formation et Enseignement (UFE - Teaching and Training Unit).

Popularization of science

To be able to carry out its program for the popularization of scientific culture, the Observatory provides a range of activities for school children, members of the public, journalists, institutional partners and decision makers: events, visits to diverse places, events related to ongoing astronomical happenings, exhibitions, sponsorship of school classes, media activities and digital communication.

The Observatory encapsulated in a few figures

  • Three sites
  • Five departments
  • One institute
  • Two scientific services
  • 900 persons, of which 250 are students
  • A 24-million-euro budget
  • Conducts 30 percent  of French astronomy activities