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Visiting the Anglo-Australian Observatory

Siding Springs, New South Wales

In April 2000, my wife and I visited the Observatory overlooking the Warrumbungle National Park, Northwest New South Wales, explains our Features Editor John Berry. My son drove us to Coonabarabran, a small town nearest the site and at a crossroads a sign indicated that the Observatory was twenty minutes drive westward.

The road to the Observatory was tree-lined with green melds and prominent along the route were numerous “plugs” where the cores of volcanoes had solidified many millions of years ago and it was no surprise to find that the Observatory was sited on such a useful physical feature.

A road sign indicated a track to the right and it was a steep drive to reach the site, but strangely, although eight telescopes were on site we only found one! Fortunately this was the main telescope with a four metre aperture mirror.

A shop is close to car park (of which our Honda Patrol had the monopoly) and it is well-stocked with postcards and other space related items and coffee and cakes are served.

A wooden-stepped approach takes the visitor to the base of the four-storey high telescope where a lift is available to the top of the building. Obviously the telescope is not used during the day and Diane and I were merely able to view the complex mechanism of the telescope through a wide observation window. Staff were not available to explain the use of tile telescope although numerous photographs of galaxies were framed on the wall at this level.

We returned to the car park and thence down the winding track to the road. At this time were were the only visitors. I felt there was a complete lack of personal contact at this observatory, the only person present being an affable young woman who served in the shop but she had absolutely no knowledge of the telescopes. I am sure that a knowledgeable duty assistant would have been advantageous to answer the many questions we formed but with an apparent lack of visitors it probably would not have been a financial proposition – except of course for an enthusiast.

Sad that such an important site should have no indicators relating to the sites of The other SEVEN telescopes. I mean where were they?

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