The Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) evolved from the former Institute of Astronomy, which was established in 1928 as one of the first eight institutes of the Academia Sinica. In 1934, the institute completed the construction of the observatory at Purple Mountain in Nanjing and the Institute of Astronomy changed its name to PMO in 1950. PMO is known as the “Cradle of Modern Astronomy in China” not only because it was China’s first modern astronomical institute, but also because it was the originator of most subdisciplines of Chinese astronomy and the sponsor of subsequent CAS astronomical institutions.
PMO’s research focuses on high-energy astrophysics, solar physics and space astronomy exploration technology; star formation through the universe and corresponding terahertz technology; artificial satellite orbital dynamics and probe methods; planetary science, ephemeral astronomy and deep space exploration; and observational cosmology and galaxy formation.
By 2020, PMO aims to use a space-based probe of dark matter to solve major scientific problems; develop technology related to Antarctic astronomy in order to construct related “big science” facilities; and improve the system for observing objects and debris in space in order to support the nation’s aerospace programs.
PMO’s research in astrophysics and celestial mechanics is grouped into four divisions: dark matter and space astronomy, Antarctic astronomy and radio astronomy, applied celestial mechanics and space objects and debris, and planetary sciences and deep space exploration. Each division consists of research groups, observation stations, and laboratories. PMO houses four CAS key laboratories (Radio Astronomy, Space Object and Debris Observation, Dark Matter and Space Astronomy, Planetary Sciences) and two CAS research centers (Space Object and Debris Observation and Research, and Antarctic Astronomy). PMO has also established seven observation stations in Delingha (Qinghai Province), Ganyu (Jiangsu Province), Xuyi (Jiangsu Province), Honghe (Heilongjiang Province), Yao’an (Yunnan Province), Qingdao (Shandong Province), and Antarctic Dome A, respectively. PMO manages several major modern facilities, including a 13.7m millimeter-wave telescope, a 1m wild-field optical telescope for the search of Near Earth Objects, a CAS observation network for space objects and debris, and a solar telescope, etc. In November 2013, PMO started construction on its Xianlin campus in the eastern suburbs of Nanjing, and expects to relocate the institute to the new campus in early 2016.
As of the end of 2019, PMO had 337 regular employees. Among them are three CAS members, 61 research professors and 74 associate research professors. 14 scientists are supported by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. PMO has 114 doctoral students, 87 master’s students and 13 postdoctoral researchers.
Since 1978, PMO has received 159 national, ministerial and regional awards. PMO has long been involved in national projects, such as Chinese lunar missions. The discovery of an excess of high-energy cosmic-ray electrons that might be attributed to annihilation or decay of dark-matter particles won a Second-level National Natural Science Award in 2012, representing a particularly noteworthy achievement for PMO.
PMO has established worldwide collaboration and academic exchange with universities and research institutes from more than 20 countries and regions. In 2012, PMO and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy established the CAS-MPG Partner Group on Galaxy Formation and Cosmic Large-scale Structures.
The PMO and its stations. From left to right and top to bottom: Ganyu station, a bird view of PMO, Honghe station, Qingdao station, Design of PMO’s Xianlin campus, Qinghai station, Xuyi station, Yao'an station, Antarctic Dome A station.
(Logo of PMO, CAS)