The spectacular Piz Gloria is a revolving restaurant built on the summit of Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps, at an altitude of 2,970 meters.

One of the sections of the Eiger Ultra Trail passes through there, a race held every July as part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, covering a distance of 101 kilometers with an elevation gain of 6,700 meters.

If we dare to follow that route for 28.8 kilometers to the East (which according to Google Maps would take us about 7 hours and 51 minutes of walking, or 5 hours by bike, through snowy peaks and impressive ravines), we would reach the summit of Jungfraujoch.

And there, we could visit the Sphinx, an astronomical observatory considered the highest altitude building in Europe, specifically at 3,571 meters above sea level.

Of course, we could also reach it by train (cogwheel) to the Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch station is the highest on the continent), a five-story building with restaurants, shops, a museum, and the highest post office in Europe. From there, take the elevator that leads through the mountain to the summit and the Sphinx, after a 117-meter ascent.

From the viewpoint next to the observatory, we can contemplate the peaks of Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger.

The Sphinx structure was built in 1937, and in 1950, the astronomical dome was added.

The observatory houses two laboratories, one of the stations of the Global Atmosphere Watch (a system for monitoring the Earth’s atmosphere established by the World Meteorological Organization), a workshop, two terraces for scientific experiments, along with the 5-meter diameter astronomical dome equipped with a 76-centimeter telescope (which seems to be no longer in use).

It serves as a solar spectrometer for the Institute of Astrophysics and Geophysics at the University of Liège and is a key element in the LIDAR experiment of the Lausanne Polytechnic School.

Two couples take turns at the Sphinx, so there is always someone on duty overseeing experiments and performing maintenance tasks.

The excellent transparency of the atmosphere over Jungfraujoch allowed the Germans Labs and Neckel to make the first absolute measurements of the solar constant from the observatory in 1962.

Similarly, in 1990, the Austrians Blumthaler and Ambach used the Sphinx for the first direct measurements of the increase in UV intensity on Earth.

Beyond the spectacular location (which is well worth a visit), it is not even among the top 10 highest astronomical observatories in the world (it is in 19th place), even though it is the first in Europe.

And it is also the second-highest viewpoint in Switzerland that can be accessed, behind the 3,860 meters of the Klein Matterhorn, which can be reached by cable car.

This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on December 13, 2018. Puedes leer la versión en español en El observatorio astronómico Sphinx es el edificio situado a mayor altura de Europa


Jungfraujoch Top of Europe (Web oficial) | High Altitude Research Stations Jungfraujoch & Gornegrat (Web Oficial) | Wikipedia

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