Astronomers Royal portraits at the Royal Observatory

Coronavirus reopening

Visitor notice: All of our sites have reopened and we can't wait to welcome you back. All visitors will need to book a ticket in advance. Find out how we're keeping you safe

Essential information

Opening times: 
10am–5.30pm daily
Royal Observatory, Meridian Line and Historic Royal Observatory
Free to members

Who are the people whose work at the Royal Observatory was so important in our understanding of the universe?

Find out when you visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich, where you can see where Astronomers Royal lived and worked, and discover some of the stories of these fascinating people in our collection of portraits.

It was Charles II who initiated the idea of funding astronomical research in order to benefit the country, and under his direction that the Royal Observatory and the post of Astronomer Royal were created in 1675.

Incredibly, in the nearly 350 years since it was established, there have only been 15 Astronomers Royal in the post. It is a position that still exists today, albeit largely as an honorary role. Typically, the Astronomer Royal is someone who is renowned for their work in the field of astronomy. Whoever holds the role receives a £100 stipend each year and is a member of the Royal Household.

John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal, giving his name to Flamsteed House, the original Royal Observatory building. He was followed by luminaries such as Edmond Halley, after whom the famous comet is named, and Nevil Maskelyne, who helped calculate the Earth's distance from the Sun. Throughout the years, Astronomers Royal were at the heart of many important developments in our understanding of the planets, stars and space. See the faces behind the discoveries as part of your visit.