Siding Spring Observatory

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Siding Spring Observatory
SSO overhead image.JPG
Siding Spring Mountain with Anglo-Australian Telescope dome visible near centre of image.
Organization Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Australian National University
Code 413  
Location Siding Spring Mountain/Mount Woorat, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Altitude 1,165 m (3,822 ft)
Anglo-Australian Telescope 3.9 m (13 ft) equatorial mount
UK Schmidt Telescope 1.24 m (4 ft 1 in) Schmidt camera
Faulkes Telescope South 2 m (6 ft 7 in) Ritchey-Chrétien telescope
Siding Spring 2.3 m Telescope 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) Advanced Technology Telescope
SkyMapper 1.35 m (4 ft 5 in) wide-angle optical telescope
HAT-South telescope wide-field telescope
Solaris Telescope 20 in (51 cm) Ritchey–Chrétien telescope
Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope Schmidt Telescope
Automated Patrol Telescope wide-field CCD imaging telescope
iTelescope.Net Observatory Remote Public Telescopes
KMTNet 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) Korean Microlensing Telescope
Mount Woorut
Siding Spring Mountain[1]
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Location in New South Wales
Highest point
Elevation 1,165 m (3,822 ft)
Parent peak Mount Exmouth
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.[1]
Location Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia
Parent range Warrumbungles
Mountain type Volcanic

Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, part of the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU), incorporates the Anglo-Australian Telescope along with a collection of other telescopes owned by the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, and other institutions. The observatory is situated 1,165 metres (3,822 ft) above sea level in the Warrumbungle National Park on Mount Woorat,[1] also known as Siding Spring Mountain. Siding Spring Observatory is owned by the Australian National University (ANU) and is part of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories research school.

More than A$100 million worth of research equipment is located at the observatory.[2] There are 44 telescopes on site (not all are in working condition).


The original Mount Stromlo Observatory was set up by the Commonwealth Government in 1924. After duty supplying optical components to the military in World War II, the emphasis on astronomical research changed in the late 1940s from solar to stellar research. Between 1953 and 1974, the 74-inch (1.9 m) reflecting telescope at Mount Stromlo was the largest optical telescope in Australia.

Already in the 1950s, the artificial lights of Canberra, ACT, had brightened the sky at Mount Stromlo to such an extent that many faint astronomical objects had been overwhelmed by light pollution. The search for a new site was initiated by Bart Bok. After a site survey was undertaken the number of possible locations was narrowed down to two — Siding Spring and Mount Bingar near Griffith, also in New South Wales.[3] Siding Spring was first suggested for astronomy by Harley Wood, the New South Wales Government Astronomer at the time. Arthur Hogg did much of the preliminary site testing.

The Siding Spring site was selected by the ANU in 1962 from many other possible locations because of the dark and cloud-free skies. By the mid-1960s the ANU had set up three telescopes, together with supporting facilities, such as sealed roads, staff accommodation, electricity and water. In 1984, the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, opened the ANU's largest telescope, the low-cost and innovative 2.3-metre (7 ft 7 in) aperture telescope, housed in a simple, co-rotating cuboid dome.

Since the 1950s, and quite independently of developments at Siding Spring, the Australian and British governments had been negotiating about the construction of a very large telescope. When these negotiations finally came to fruition in 1969, the infrastructure of Siding Spring Observatory was already in place, and it was the obvious site at which to locate the 4-metre (13 ft) aperture Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT).

During the construction of the AAT in the early 1970s, the British Science Research Council also built the UK Schmidt Telescope, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the northeast of the AAT dome. The considerably wider field of view of the Schmidt optical design complements the narrower field of the AAT, in that larger areas of sky may be surveyed more quickly. Interesting objects so discovered are then studied in greater detail on the larger instrument. In 1987, the Schmidt Telescope was amalgamated with the AAT.

Siding Spring Observatory also houses telescopes from Korea, Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network and the University of New South Wales. In 1990, the earth-satellite tracking facility of the Royal Greenwich Observatory was closed down after 10 years of operation. In 2012 the first publicly accessible Internet based observatory, working in partnership with the RSAA, was commissioned by iTelescope.Net with multiple telescopes housed in a large roll-off roof (ROR) observatory near the base of the UK Schmidt Telescope.

2013 Bushfire

On 13 January 2013 the facility was threatened by a huge bushfire and firestorm. Eighteen staff were evacuated to Coonabarabran. Three buildings were destroyed: 'The Lodge' accommodation used by visiting researchers, the Director's Cottage and the Fire Station.[4][5] Bushfire prevention measures had been implemented and were credited with the protection of the telescopes.[2] Though smoke, ash and other air-borne debris entered some domes, all telescopes appear to have survived the inferno. The first telescopes back in action were those of the iTelescope Remote Observatory on January 20.[citation needed] The Anglo-Australian Telescope resumed normal operations in mid-February 2013.[6]


There is a visitors' gallery and exhibition area open to the public which also incorporates a cafe and souvenir shop. During NSW school holidays, guided tours of the site are offered. Groups of over 15 adults may apply for Behind the Scenes walking or bus tours.

An Open Day is held annually in October, where visitors can enjoy many activities on site. They can listen to talks about astronomy, meet astronomers and tour inside many of the telescope domes which are open to the public on this one day of the year. These tours include the AAT 4M, UK Schmidt, iTelescope.Net, 2.3M ANU and the LCGTN 2M telescope facilities. Scenic views of the surrounding Warrumbungle National Park can also be enjoyed from its unique viewing point.


  • 3.9 m (13 ft) Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAO), operational in 1975
  • 1.24 m (4 ft 1 in) UK Schmidt Telescope (AAO)
  • 2 m (6 ft 7 in) Faulkes Telescope South (LCOGT)
    • two 1 m (3 ft 3 in) telescopes LCOGT
  • 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) SkyMapper Telescope (ANU), when launched in 2009 was the first new optical, research grade telescope in Australia since 1984.[7]
  • 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) Advanced Technology Telescope (ANU), was built in 1984
  • Multiple - iTelescope.Net (iTelescope Network), Internet connected remote telescopes for the Public. Built 2013
  • 4 x 0.4 m (1 ft 4 in) "Telescopes PROMPT Telescopes (The University of North Carolina), Built 2013
  • HAT-South Telescope Network (ANU, CfA, MPIA)
  • SOLARIS Telescope (Nicolas Copernicus Astronomical Centre - Poland. Built 2012)
  • 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope (ANU – decommissioned 2013)
  • 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) Automated Patrol Telescope (UNSW – decommissioned 2012)
  • 0.45 m (1 ft 6 in) ROTSE IIIa, Robotic Optical Transit Search Experiment (UNSW - – decommissioned 2011)
  • Korean YSTAR Telescope (Korean Southern Observatory)
  • 40 in (100 cm) Telescope (ANU), was first commissioned in 1963 currently decommissioned and moved to Millroy Observatory for use by amateurs.[8]
  • 24 in (61 cm) Telescope (ANU – decommissioned)
  • 16 in (41 cm) Telescope (ANU – decommissioned)
  • 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet)

Observing programs

The Anglo-Australian Near-Earth Asteroid Survey used the UK Schmidt Telescope between 1990 and 1996.[9] The same telescope was later dedicated for use by the RAVE survey of the Milky Way. The Near-Earth object search program called the Siding Spring Survey (closed 2013) used the Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope.[10] The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, one of the largest survey of galaxies ever undertaken used the Anglo-Australian Telescope between 1995 and 2002.[11]

Notable discoveries

In 1977, the Vela Pulsar was discovered at Siding Spring. Comet 103P/Hartley was discovered by Malcolm Hartley in 1986.[12] On 8 August 2006 C/2006 P1 was discovered by Robert H. McNaught using the Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope.[13] On 3 January 2013 C/2013 A1, which will pass extremely close to Mars on 19 October 2014 at 18:28 ± 0:01 UTC, was discovered by Robert H. McNaught using the 0.5-meter (20 in) Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope.[14]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Mount Woorut". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Bushfire hits Australia's largest observatory". Australian Geographic. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Haynes, Raymond; Roslynn D. Haynes; David Malin; Richard McGee (1996). Explorers of the Southern Sky: A History of Australian Astronomy. 0521365759. p. 175. Retrieved 20 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Lewis, Rosie; Edwards, Harry (14 January 2013). "Siding Spring Observatory survives raging bushfire". The Australian. Retrieved 14 January 2013. key scientific facilities at Siding Spring, in northern NSW, look to have escaped major damage from the blaze<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Fire risk – Information for ANU staff and students". Australian National University. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Siding Spring Observatory reopens". ANU. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "SkyMapper to chart southern sky". The West Australian. West Australian Newspapers. 25 May 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Observations in Coonabarabran". ABC Western Plains. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Dymock, Roger (2010). Asteroids and Dwarf Planets and How to Observe Them. Springer. p. 81. ISBN 1441964398. Retrieved 20 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Safi, Michael (20 October 2014). "Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program, scientists warn". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Galaxy Survey Reveals Missing Cosmic Link". ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily LLC. 12 January 2005. Retrieved 20 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Klaus Schmidt (3 November 2010). "The Man Behind Comet Hartley 2". The International Space Fellowship. Retrieved 21 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Joe Rao (12 January 2007). "The Great Comet of 2007: Watch it on the Web". Retrieved 20 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "MPEC 2013-A14 : COMET C/2013 A1 (SIDING SPRING)". IAU Minor Planet Center. 5 January 2013. Archived from the original on 1 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (CK13A010)

External links

2013 Bushfire