Siding Spring Observatory

Siding Spring Observatory is located in the Warrumbungle Mountains about half an hour's drive from Coonabarabran in Central West New South Wales.  It is Australia's premier facility for optical and infra-red astronomy.

There are several telescopes on the site including the 2.3m Advanced Technology Telescope, the world famous 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope, 2m Faulkes Telescope, the 1.24m UK Schmidt Telescope, two Boller & Chivens Cassegrains 1m and 0.6m along with the 0.5m Automatic Patrol Telescope and 0.6m Uppsala Schmidt Telescope.

The 3.9 metre AAT Telescope:


The top end of the 3.9-m AAT - the black "thing" at the top holds the secondary mirror:


View of Siding Spring Mountain from the AAT cat walk.
The square building is the ANU/Mt Stromlo 2.3-m  telescope. The dome at the top-left is the new ANU/Mt Stromlo 1.3-m Sky-Mapper, the dome is complete but the telescope is not.



   Next are two views of the 3.9 m (diameter) AAT primary mirror.  The white "pedals" are the mirror cover – these lift up at the edges when the mirror is in use.  The primary mirror bounces the light to the secondary mirror.  The secondary mirror then bounces the light back down toward the primary.  There is a hole in the centre of the primary to allow light to pass to the "Cassegrain focus".  The tube in the middle of these photos is the path through the hole in the primary mirror.


This is my second visit to the Observatory as someone with permission to go inside the dome (many years ago on a school excursion we went to the observation room – where you peer through glass into the dome).  The first time we went out on the catwalk (about 8 stories high) I was so freaked out by having to walk on metal grating that I hugged the dome the entire path around!!   Quite literally!!   It was only afterwards that I realised how ridiculous this must have looked to any astronomers inside who might have been watching on the remote screens!!  (another strike against this astronomer's wife!).

This time I did much better – I did not make it to the railing but at least I walked away from the dome wall!


Wall of the AAT Dome:


Views from the catwalk:



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17 responses

  1. Wow! What an excellent tour you've had of the Observatory. The narrative you wrote for the photo tour you've given us was also quite good — one mightn't guess that it's your husband who is the astro-dweeb, not you! That is, unless, the reader had first seen your earlier post on how a telescope gave you a black eye. Thanks, once again, for the "insider's view" of one of Australia's outstanding observatories. Happy travels back to the States! — JG

  2. Thankyou. The dome wall shot gives you an idea of how high up it is to the catwalk. That metal grate did not seem "stable" though I was assured that many astronomers have walked on it for many years – I believe at that point I remarked that it must be time that it was starting to fall apart!

  3. Thank you. Actually this trip has sort of re-awakened an interest for me. I had become sort of nonchalent about it because I hear about it all the time so it was nice for me to get back to the basics.

  4. Thank you James. I think you would really enjoy a trip here – hope you can wrangle it one day. I try to be a good enough listener to repeat all about what I am seeing – doesn't mean I understand any of it though! 🙂

  5. Thank you – it would be nice to have some interested people with me too! Astronomy & Space is something that so many people are interested in and yet so few get to see many of these interesting "insider" bits. I have been very lucky.

  6. LOL! Is that a photo of the actual water tank you climbed????? If so, I can understand the fear! 🙂
    We used to have windmills around our farm and I used to think I could climb one but I only ever got about 10 feet off the ground before having to come back down.

  7., that one was about the same height, but cylindrical. It was in our college campus, and had a great view from the top. There were spiral iron steps taking you all the way…Windmills!! Now that would be cool!

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