Sunday, 16 November 2014

A little bit more on the Sydney Observatory.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned briefly about my first observing experience in the Southern Hemisphere.  However, I didn't go into much detail about our short visit to the Sydney Observatory.
The observatory is situated, pride of place on top of the hill in The Rocks area of the city, just next to the harbour bridge.



The Sydney Observatory.
The observatory was built in 1858, back when the city was still very young, and light pollution was not an issue.  These days though, with the lights from all the different harbours, and the city itself, naked eye observing is a tough as it is in any other major built up area of the world.  Nevertheless, the building has been maintained and run with astronomy and education in mind.  There are two large copper domes attached to the main building of the observatory, and many other rooms throughout the building.
The observatory is mostly free to visit and walk around.  There are many exhibits on display, some of which are interactive, and many of historical note.

The 1874 Hugo Schroeder refractor.





On display, and available to use, in the South dome is a 11.4" refractor telescope on an equatorial mount.  It was built by Hugo Schroeder in 1874 and is found being held up into the dome by a massive stone and concrete pillar of around 1 meter square and around 3 stories high.  This is the oldest working telescope in Australia.












In the North dome, a more modern telescope can be found.  This wasn't available for viewing during our visit as there was already a pre-booked group in the dome with it at the time, but it is a 400mm Schmidt Cassegrain scope used for imaging.  The North dome also accommodates a scope used for solar viewing.
Another interesting scope exhibited in the observatory is the Transit Circle telescope.  This scope is only able to move on a North - South axis, and therfore is extremely accurate at telling the time!  On certain parts of the sky are available at any point during the day or night.  However, this looks like it is purely an exhibit these days and is no longer used.
There were building works going on in the ground of the observatory while we were there.  From what we could understand, a 3rd telescope dome is in the process of being built, but this time being specially designed for disabled user access.  It will be interesting to see how this looks when it is finished.

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