Monday, October 7, 2013

Take a Trip to Tycho Brahe's Isle of Hven

Brahe, always looking up

What if the King of Denmark gave you your very own island to conduct your scientific experiments? In the 1570s, astronomer Tycho Brahe was gifted the Isle of Hven and there he built a castle and an underground observatory, Stjerneborg. Today, just a short ferry ride away from Copenhagen, you can visit Hven (pronounced like "vein"), which is now a part of Sweden. 

Take the ferry from near picturesque Nyhavn, and less than an hour later, you will be walking up a hill toward the green fields of Hven. Ferries from Copenhagen run only in the summer, while ferries from Sweden run all year round.  

Near the ferry dock, try some excellent ice cream to fuel your journey. The Tycho Brahe museum is within walking distance, or pause on your way up the hill and you will find a bike rental area. Be sure to bring cash in the form of Danish kroner or Swedish krona.

In my opinion, walking is best. Along the way, you will find markers of the planets. They are spaced out to correspond with the space between the planets in outer space, and children will enjoy spotting these informative plaques along the route. 

A Tycho statue by an art gallery--me with my nephew Benjamin

I made the trip with my brother and his family, including eight and ten year old niece and nephew.

Green fields dotted with red poppies and quaint cottages abound. Along the way, you can visit art galleries and observe horses and goats grazing in the fields.

Finally, you reach the main attraction, the Tycho Brahe museum. For more information, visit this website: .

The museum is located in an old and beautiful church. Inside, informative exhibits and a video about Brahe’s life can easily take up an hour or more. One of my favorite exhibits allows you to turn the pages of an old manuscript using a computer, which details the religious and scientific atmosphere in Brahe’s time. Nearby, well-maintained gardens and a cafĂ© are a good spot for a break from your tour.

The highlight of the tour is definitely stepping inside the observatory. You can only go inside at the appointed time of the show, but it runs fairly often. The show is not for the claustrophobic, because you are closed into a small space in the underground observatory. However, you are treated to an amazing 3-d display and story of Brahe’s work over time, which takes place all around you in the circular space. 

A friendly tour guide will be there with you to chat in English and answer your questions.  After Brahe tried to run his experiments from his castle, he found that the wind was a detriment to the accuracy of his measurements, and so the observatory was built underground. The observatory is a re-creation of the original, because the ruins were still there, and some of the original instruments are also preserved. You can find out more about the observatory and its renovations here.

Want to find out more? Add the Isle of Hven to your itinerary of cool science-related places to visit!

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