A short History of Observatorio ARVAL

People have often come to both Andrés and me, in person or by e-mail, to ask: What is the Observatorio ARVAL?, Where is it?, Have you got a dome?

That is why we have decided to write this short review on what is the Observatorio ARVAL.

Andrés and I have known each other since we were children, and tough we never studied together, we shared many interests. One of the things that we had in common, was music. I still remember, how much we enjoyed the first time we listened to "Bookends" by Simon & Garfunkel.

Around '65, Andrés got as a present from his parents, a 3 inch Tasco newtonian telescope, which opened for us a new world.

That first cardboard and plastic telescope, initiated us on the wonders that until then were unknown to us; Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, the details of the Moon.

With time, different instruments fell in our hands, each time of a better quality. First, binoculars, which did not increase the reach we had with the Tasco, but did add portability and quality to our search.

Then, as Comet Halley's visit was getting near in '86, came the 4.25 inch AstroScan 2001, bought by Andrés, another step ahead in the quality of our observing. This instrument, came with a list of easily observable objects, which was finished in a short time. This list was augmented, for it was typically northern; our being so near the Equator, let us see objects of a more southern Declination. It was this first list that eventually would lead to what we now call the ARVAL Catalog of Bright Objects.

On another tack, my future father-in-law, who was an amateur astronomer, had an 8 inch Celestron at an ideally located observing place in the Venezuelan coast, and it was with him, that I started to systematically learn the constellations. In time, this telescope came to be part of ARVAL's equipment.

Our formal introduction to astronomy we got in Caracas, at the Humboldt Planetarium, where both, at different times, went through the Stellar Orientation and Star Identification courses.

With the passage of Comet Halley in 1986, some friends who knew about our interest in astronomy, started asking us for news on the comet, due to the scarce information in the local media.
Many nights were spent observing together from different places around the country, almost always with guests.

It was maybe at this moment when, by putting together the first letters from our last names, the name "Observatorio ARVAL" was first used. I think it was Andrés' wife, who had this idea.

In time, the celestial objects list kept on growing, and turned into a catalog of different classes of objects; guide stars, open and globular star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae, that could be observed from both hemispheres with small aperture telescopes, up to 8 inches. It filled a vacuum, because there was no formal list of this kind.

By the end of 1994, I bought a 10 inch Meade LX-200, to increase our observing capacity and help us fight Caracas light pollution, because, being a computerized telescope, it allowed us to locate low brightness objects, even through the poor transparency of our skies.

Around this time, Andrés bought and refurbished an old 5 inch Celestron C-750, and got a vintage Tasco German-equatorial mount, which together became our portable wide-angle telescope.

In January '96, a 5 inch Celestron C-5+ bought by Andrés, joined the collection, it has increased our capacity to move around, and the power of the mobile section of the Observatory.
This section is of special importance, for we want to go deeper into astrophotography, and help improve the public observations at the Humboldt Planetarium.

Near the end of '95, when Andrés connected to the Internet and built his personal Home Page, he included his interest in astronomy in his professional profile.
It is then, when the Observatorio ARVAL appeared, with its own World-Wide Web page.

The rest is history .....

Arnaldo Arnal

In the first versions of my personal Home Page, recently moved from Geocities to TRUEnet in February '96, you could read:

This Web site will be offering some information on me and my activities as an Engineer and as an Amateur Astronomer.

Following the link "Amateur Astronomer", you reached my "Astronomy Page".
There you could read:

This site is under construction. Watch out for falling Bytes!!

This Web site will be offering some information on me and my activities as an Amateur Astronomer (ARVAL Observatory).

Thanks for visiting!

My "Astronomy Page" offered two sections:

Información Astronómica para Caracas (Observatorio ARVAL)


Astronomical Information from the Internet:

Comet 1996 B2 Hyakutake- English
[Local page (6K), you can save it for off-line reading]

Comet 1995 O1 Hale-Bopp - English
[Local page (10K), you can save it for off-line reading]

AstroLinks - English
[Local page (11K), you can save it as a AstroLink directory]

Updated: March 2 '96

This Home Page URL is http://www.true.net/~avalencia/Astro.htm

Andrés Valencia's Home Page

Mensajes (Messages): avalencia@true.net

The original section on comet Hyakutake, no longer exists.
But the memories of the comet will remain forever.

Ikufumi Makino: Comet 1996-B2 Hyakutake,
Brian Halbrook: Comet 1996-B2 Hyakutake,
Artemi García: Comet Hyakutake - March 22 '96.

The section on Comet Hale-Bopp, predicted a beautiful spectacle, yet to come.

Comet 1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) (with photographs),
Comet C-1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) (RGO Leaflets),
Comet Hale-Bopp Brightness (RGO Leaflets),
Starman (3 strips on Comet Hale-Bopp).

The section "Información Astronómica para Caracas (Observatorio ARVAL)", has developed into ARVAL's World-Wide Web site, steadily serving more than 1,300 files (9MB) each week, to more than 200 visitors per month, from all the countries around the World!

Astronomía Caraqueña (in Spanish only).

On February 25 '96 ARVAL's URL changed from the humble http://www.true.net/~avalencia/Astro.htm to the prestigious http://www.arval.org.ve

All of this advances in ARVAL's national and international reach, would not have been possible without the backing from TRUEnet, our Internet Access Provider and former server for this pages. TRUEnet was absorbed by CANTV.net.


The oldest preserved (electronic) issue of ARVAL's pages, in the files of this faithful "Webmaster" ("Webservant", I would say), is also the first to include a graphic page, with a diagram of the total Lunar eclipse for April 3 '96.

With my photograph of the Moon at the maximum of the eclipse included, this page has become one of the most popular in ARVAL's site, this days.

Something that seems to be the norm for so many astronomy hobbies, is the role played by the great comets in ARVAL's development:

The Observatorio ARVAL was born with Comet Halley's visit in '86, and appeared in the World-Wide Web with Comet Hyakutake in '96.

Other great astronomical events will surely bring more changes to ARVAL!

ARVAL's Web site is dedicated to propagating astronomical information since February '96.
All of it is bilingual (Spanish - English), except for the 'Astronomía Caraqueña' section, which contains local astronomical information centered around Caracas, Venezuela.
The emphasis is on the wonder and beauty of astronomy.

Observatorio ARVAL was retired from the Web by anonymous interests on September 1 2001, after having served more than 65,000 visitors, answering more than 700 of your messages.

But I'm very pleased to announce that since September 26 2001 you can see the pages of Observatorio ARVAL, at its new site in the Web, at http://www.oarval.org, thanks to Roger Curry and David Knighton of the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society (NEFAS).

Saludos, (and Clear Skies)
Andrés Valencia

Updated: September 29 '01

Back: Observatorio ARVAL - Home Page

Spanish: Breve Historia del Observatorio ARVAL