Astronomy at UFRGS existed even before the University’s instiutional formalization. The Centre’s Foundation was in 1908 and the creation of UFRGS was in 1934. In 1971, with the restructuring of Federal universities, the Institute of Physics received teaching assignments which until then were the responsibility of the Faculty of philosophy. The new Statute of the UFRGS, stipulated the minimum number of departments in a University Unit would be of two. As the Physics Department already existed, the Department of Astronomy came into being which also manages the Astronomical Observatory.

The first meeting of the Department of Astronomy took place on March 22, 1971, and significantly, had as the main building, the Observatory site of Morro Santana, at the end of its construction. The participants in this meeting were the teachers: José Carlos Haertel, Linh da Rocha Vieira, Vitor Francisco de Araújo Haertel, and Jorge Alberto Castro de Faria. Also present were the Fellows of the Institute of Physics, Rogério Livi and Silvia Helena Becker Livi. This meeting elected the first head of the Department (Prof. José Carlos Haertel), and were given the direction to consolidate the activities of teaching, research, and extension in astronomy at UFRGS, including: the decision to build a stellar photometer (initially with the support of the Observatory of La Plata in Argentina); the improvement of the framework for researchers and graduate students (with the coming, which was approved at this meeting, the doctors Federico Strauss and Zulema Abraham); and the creation of the course “Introduction to astronomy”, directed by Prof. Edemundo.

The advent of modern astrophysics at UFRGS, under these circumstances, due to the creation of the Department, the qualification of the teachers and researchers, and the inauguration of the Observatorio del Morro Santana.

The Department of astronomy and the Astronomic Observatory are part of the Institute of Physics, which completed 50 years in 2009 and is part of Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.

Text: Prof. Dr. Jorge Ricardo Ducati.