Located at the "Top of The World" amid Switzerland's mountainous terrain, the Sphinx Observatory boasts some of the planet's most spectacular views. Nestled high up in the clouds at 3,571 meters, the center welcomes astronomers, geologists, physicists, meteorologists and hydrologists from around the world to come and contribute their skills to the observatory's environmental investigation efforts. The region's magnificent height makes the UNESCO world heritage site the highest-altitude structure in Europe, and the observatory welcomes the public as well as the science community to enjoy its spectacular viewing platform at the top of the summit.
The observatory is a critical element in a range of long-term experiments – it serves as a solar spectrometer for the Institute of Astrophysics and Geophysics at the University of Liège, Belgium, and plays a key role in a LIDAR experiment conducted by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. The site includes two large laboratories, a weather observation station, and two terraces for scientific experiments, as well as an astronomical and meteorological cupola. Looking out over the surrounding mountain tops, the 76 cm telescope is well-placed for observing the star-speckled sky.
Be warned though, as it’s a pretty long journey to get there: from Berne, the center’s nearest city, it’s a 45-minute train journey to the foot of the Alps, and from there you have to change trains for an additional three hours before reaching the observatory area. While visitors are welcome to the center to appreciate the incredible landscape, overnight accommodation is only reserved for researchers and scientists. Regardless of the travel-time and restricted accommodations, the observatory looks well worth the trip.
Images courtesy of the Sphinx Observatory and Flickr User MlCastle