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Paul Wild Observatory, NSW
The arch of the Milky Way captured above CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array in Narrabri, NSW. There are six dishes like the ones pictured here, that combine to form a “virtual” dish with a diameter of up to 6km, helping to produce images of distant galaxies.
A recent upgrade, announced this month, doubled their sensitivity, meaning better and more detailed images should follow over the next few years.
CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array is an array of six 22m antennas used for radio astronomy – capturing and amplifying radio signals from space. Each dish weighs about 270t.
The imposing dishes of Australia Telescope Compact Array are helping to observe star formation, the late stages of stars’ lives, supernovae and magnetic fields.
The Paul Wild Observatory is 25km from Narrabri township, which is 540km north-west of Sydney. Narrabri has a population of about 7250. It is the centre of a large farming district which produces cotton, oilseed, premium grade wheat, grain sorghum, and raises cattle and sheep.
Siding Springs Observatories, NSW
Siding Springs Observatory is located in pristine conditions at about 1200m above sea level in Warrumbungle National Park.
In the 1960s, Siding Spring, was set up as a second observatory to Mt Stromlo in the ACT, to provide a permanent dark site in response to the adverse sky-brightness effects of Canberra’s growth.
Australia’s largest optical (visible-light) telescope, The Anglo-Australian telescope at the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Springs in north-western NSW, is 3.9m across.
It started life as joint venture between Australia and the UK, becoming fully Australian in 2010 – and has held the record for detecting the most distant known object to humankind on a number of occasions.
Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, WA
In addition to a number of radio telescopes already on-site, the remote Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in the Western Australian desert will soon be home to part of the Square Kilometre Array – a project that will combine radio telescopes thousands of kilometres apart, mostly in WA and South Africa. It will produce a radio telescope that will have a survey speed 10,000 times faster than its nearest current-day rival
Murchison Shire has a population of about one person per 350sq.km. It’s views of the Milky Way and lack of radio interference make it a prime location for the huge project.
Mount Pleasant Radio Observatory, Tas
Located 20km east of Hobart at Cambridge, the Mount Pleasant Radio Observatory is run the the University of Tasmania and has three radio telescopes: the Mount Pleasant 26m antenna, the 14m Vela Antenna and a 12m AuScope VLBI Antenna.
Sydney Observatory, NSW
Sydney Observatory now operates as a museum and houses the oldest functioning telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
The building was erected in 1858. It has a dome to house the equatorial telescope, a room with long, narrow windows for the transit telescope, an office for calculations, and a residence for the astronomer. A western wing was added in 1877, with an office and library space, and a second dome for another telescope.
Some of the first astronomical photographs of the southern sky were taken here.
Arkaroola Observatory, SA
Located about 700km north of Adelaide, Arkaroola Observatory boasts three small observatory structures. Inside the oldest, the Dodwell Observatory, is a 36cm computer-controlled Celestron astronomical telescope. It is the largest privately owned telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Dodwell Observatory is named in honour of George Frederick Dodwell, the Government Astronomer of South Australia from 1909-1952.
One of three observatories at the Arkaroola site, the Sir Mark Oliphant Observatory is named after one of SA’s past Governors. It’s a small 3.5m in diameter and made from fibreglass, housing a 36cm in diameter telescope.
Parkes Observatory, NSW
An icon of Australian science, the Parkes radio telescope – also known as ‘The Dish’ has been in operation since 1961. It continues to be at the forefront of astronomical discovery thanks to regular upgrades. The 64m dish has most recently been used to ‘weigh’ planets.
After testing sites all over Australia, a site overlooking the Warrumbungle Ranges near Coonabarabran was chosen for the site of Siding Springs Observatory. It has prime conditions for observation of the skies: high elevation (1160m above sea level), low humidity, a non-turbulent atmosphere, clean air, plus an average of 70% of night skies clear.
In 1969, the Parkes Observatory dish was instrumental in transmitting television signals from the Apollo 11 Moon landing to 600 million across the world.
Mt Stromlo and Siding Springs Observatories, NSW
Past projects at work under the domes of Mt Stromlo and Siding Springs observatories have included mapping the entire southern hemisphere sky, discovering new planets around other stars and identifying near Earth objects (asteroids and comets).
The observatory is named after Australian astronomer Paul Wild, who used the site in the late 1960s and early 1970s to operated the world’s first solar radio-spectrographs, observing the radio emissions of the Sun and documenting flairs and activity.
Gingin Observatory, WA
Just north of Perth, the 7.5t roof of Gingin Observatory rolls off, so that interested astronomers have a chance to look at the sky through some of the biggest privately-owned telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere.
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