Maharishi Vedic Observatory

Fairfield is a city in southeast Iowa with a population of 9416 based on the 2020 census. Like many places, it has a varied and interesting history. Higher education played a large role in that history. Fairfield was home to Parsons College from 1875 to 1973. Enrollment peaked at 5000 in 1966. Soon after, the school and it’s president, Millard G. Roberts, got caught up in questionable activities. Life magazine published a critical article. The school lost accreditation and he was asked to resign. Enrollment dropped and the school closed in 1973 bankrupt and $14 million in debt.

The following year the campus was purchased by Maharishi International University. It promotes consciousness-based education which includes Transcendental Meditation technique in its practices. Full potential of the individual, reaching economic goals, living in harmony with the environment, and bringing spiritual fulfillment and happiness to humanity are some of the goals of MIU. Follow links to find out more about MIU. This blog post is not an attempt to promote or endorse in any way.

Our recent visit to Fairfield and the campus was to visit their Maharishi Vedic Observatory. This aerial image shows it is not what one thinks of when describing an observatory. There is no large telescope dome. Instead, it is made up of 10 solar and celestial measurement instruments, or sundials, and a collection of inner circles.

Iowa Source Magazine

I am an amateur astronomer. The movements of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars have always interested me. I enjoy using tools to observe their movements and placements in the sky. Each instrument in the outer circle measures some aspect of that movement. We walked into the observatory from the right in the picture above and had this view. A sign greeted visitors.

We approached each instrument and made our way around counter-clockwise. A small sign was posted for each describing the English name and the Vedic name. No other information was on the signs about how the instruments functioned. After our visit, I located a YouTube video officially sanctioned by MIU which takes 37 minutes to view. It fully describes each instrument. Plus, it describes how the individual can utilize the instrument to gain a fuller appreciation for their own place in the cosmos. If I had listened to it while walking around it would have been helpful.

The following photos are meant to show the basic designs of each. If you are knowledgeable about astronomy, you will probably recognize the things each instrument is measuring. All of them are aligned on a north-south axis.

Two of these were present. The central gnomon shadow indicates altitude and azimuth of the Sun.
Hemispherical sundial designed to function between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes.
A second hemispherical sundial on the back at left functions between vernal and autumnal equinoxes.
Meridinal wall measures time of day as well as the altitude of the Sun.
Our visit at noon CDT read as 11 am solar time on the meridinal wall instrument.
Mounted on an east-west wall of an instrument.
Two Armillary Spheres were side by side. Note the metal washer hanging in the center.
Armillary Sphere viewed from the chamber below it.
Azimuth instrument
Composite instrument includes 5 different measurements.
Myself included for a sense of scale.
Instrument mounted on the back side of the composite.
Bowl instrument measures altitude, azimuth, equinoxes, and time.
Circle instruments can be rotated so the viewer can sight through the tubes to the sky.

Within the circle of 10 instruments lies another set of circular objects described as the Constitution of the Universe, the Total Expression of Natural Law, according to the narration in the video tour.

The outer circles vary from small to larger diameters.
These concentric circles with radial spokes lie at the central heart of the observatory.

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