The Elysium Mons Observatory
In 5,009 AD, a group of nobles and guildsmen of the Elysium colony petitioned the municipal government to allow construction of an observatory on Elysium Mons. Their overt aim was to determine whether human colonies survived elsewhere in the solar system; covertly, they hoped to reenergize interest in retaking Earth. The group was led by MuniPrin Lee Ludei, a private scholar and nephew of the ruling Autarch of Elysium. Other senior members included Pol Vigili, a senior Academician of the Sensologists' Guild; Val Milesei, a former Third Commander of the Elysium military, discharged for medical reasons; and Vil Noli, a trimind bonded to the Communicators' Guild. Many noteworthy figures from subsequent Republic history were involved in the project, such as Ermon-N0001, then Ermon Vigili, a Journeyman of the Sensologists' Guild; Dee-N0012, then Dee Vigili, a menial of the Orphans' Guild contracted to the project and later Apprentice Sensologist; and Mara-N0011, then simply Mara, a menial of the Orphans' Guild and later Aide to MuniPrin Lee Ludei.
Thanks to Lee Ludei's influence, the cabal was able to secure permission, though subject to censorship and other restrictions. Construction of the Observatory began in 5,012 AD, and the first observations were taken in 5,016 AD.
Observations of the Solar System
Mercury: The Second Golden Age Mercury settlements were all located underground, with surface facilities limited to space launch ports, communications relays, and similar facilities. All known surface facilities appeared to have been dismantled, and the sites returned to their original form. Although no definite signs of continuing human presence were detected, there were certain ambiguous infrared readings that might indicate subsurface industrial activity.
Venus: No indication of activity. The Venusian orbital research base appeared to be intact, but the thermal signature indicated it had been abandoned.
Earth and Earth's Moon: Under the edict authorizing construction of the Observatory, no observations were to be made of any objects within 500,000 km of Earth. According to the unanimous memories of the surviving staff, such observations were made clandestinely, but the survivors were too junior to learn the results. However, it is known that Vil Noli suffered a psychotic breakdown following what was rumored to be an attempted observation of TYRANT, and had to be Martyred to prevent memetic contagion. (Paragraph is MaxConInfo: HIEROPHANT)
Martian Orbit: The majority of the platforms and satellites in Martian orbit had reentered since the loss of Martian orbital access. Those remaining in orbit no longer appeared to be functional.
Asteroid Belt: No indication of activity.
Jupiter: No indication of activity.
Saturn: Some moons orbiting Saturn showed signs of mining. However, due to the incompleteness of the available records, they could not determine if this mining dated to the Second Golden Age, or if it was more recent. The ruins of the Saturn habitat appeared to be intact, but the thermal signature indicated it had been abandoned. There were no signs of on-going human or other activity.
Uranus: No indication of activity.
Neptune: No indication of activity.
Distant Objects: No indication of activity.
Lee Ludei and Pol Vigili published a bookfile, Preliminary Observations of the Solar System in 5,018 AD in an effort to arouse public interest in the project. Although Preliminary Observations initially passed the censorship board, the Elysium government turned against it due to its implied criticism of the government as insufficiently zealous in attempting to return to Earth.