UK Astronomy Technology Centre

The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) is a national centre of excellence for the development of scientific instrumentation and facilities for ground and space-based astronomy. Based at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) it has a reputation for delivering innovative and capable cameras, spectrometers and even turnkey telescope systems.

The UK ATC works with leading organisations, such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, to answer fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of planets and galaxies. It does this by:

  • designing and building state-of-the-art instruments for many of the world’s major telescopes
  • managing UK and international collaborations with universities, research centres, national institutes and industry
  • conducting observational and theoretical astronomical research

The Royal Observatory

The UK ATC manages the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre, whose programmes include the UK Dark Sky Discovery initiative to engage schools and communities across the UK. The Observatory site is shared with the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh, creating a vibrant mix of astronomers, students and engineers.

Practical benefits

UK ATC and technology delivers a range of practical benefits outside its traditional field of astronomy. Expertise in optics and imaging systems are being used for:

  • biomedical imaging including tools for ophthalmology
  • biomedical imaging to detect diseases
  • instruments for monitoring the Earth’s environment from the ground, from pilotless aircraft and space (including via cubesats)

The Higgs Centre for Innovation

The Observatory site is also home to the Higgs Centre for Innovation, a new business-focused facility in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, for supporting startups and SMEs working in the space and data-intensive sectors, and encouraging collaboration between researchers, engineers and postgraduate students.

The Higgs Centre for Innovation will bring together research in astronomy and particle physics and the instrumentation expertise that underpins it, with business incubation facilities and laboratories suitable for commercial use. Scientists, engineers and students interact and collaborate to improve our understanding of the Universe and will engage with companies both big and small to drive technological advancement forward.

How to get to UK Astronomy Technology Centre


STFC UK Astronomy Technology Centre
Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
Blackford Hill

Telephone: 0131 668 8100

Follow UK ATC on Twitter.


The UK Astronomy Technology Centre is situated on Blackford Hill, to the south of the city, it should not be confused with the pre-1893 Royal Observatory (or City Observatory) on Calton Hill. The Royal Observatory is sign-posted from the Cameron Toll roundabout, Mayfield Road and Blackford Avenue.

View a list of Google maps for all STFC institutions.

Last updated: 30 January 2024

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