Outback observatories

While on our recent outback trip, we discovered that there are observatories set up in far flung places for people to visit.

In Woomera, the Baker Observatory is in Carriwan Street (we got a bit lost and parked in Burrimul street and walked through). Their main building is a converted kindergarten. They have a 3.5 metre dome, which makes it quite large, and inside, they have a 14” Cassegrain telescope, which is an absolute monster. They’re open on Friday nights, but it’s best to check their Facebook page for weather details.

In Andamooka, an opal mining area an hour or so up the road from Woomera, the skies are unbelievably clear. Conan Fahey is raising funds for an observatory by running night tours and classes. In particular, there’s the Mars Simulation Camp at the German Gully Mine. They also run a bookshop that specialises in Australian history, including indigenous history as well as astronomy and science fiction, amongst other subjects. The Andamooka Observatory has a web page, and you can check out their Facebook page.

Back in Victoria (just), we stayed a night at Wyperfeld NP. I’ve been coming here since 1976, but I’ve never been to Pine Plains Lodge. It wasn’t until the other day that I found there was an observatory there, which is equipped with a 10” Meade Cassegrain. The observatory itself is perched at the top of an upturned 40 foot shipping container. I spoke with Adrian Meehan, who built the observatory. He tells me that the dome on the top of the tower gets a great view over the trees and you can see to the horizon in all directions. The tower moves a little in high wind or when there are people moving about up there, so he’s going to brace it with some 3” pipe stays.

There are more photos on the web page. They're well worth a look.