Michael A. Stecker

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Anglo-Australian Observatory

Siding Springs
Since 1971 the Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO) has provided world-class research facilities for both the Australian and British astronomical communities. The Observatory at Siding Spring, New South Wales is located at Latitude 31.27 South, Longitude +149.07 and an elevation of 1130 m (3600 feet). The Observatory operates two major optical telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory, the 3.9-meterAnglo-Australian Telescope and the 1.2-meter UK Schmidt Telescope, located outside the small town of Coonabarabran in northwest NSW, Australia, and adjacent to the magnificent Warrumbungle National Park. There is also a laboratory in the Sydney suburb of Epping. Adjacent to the AAO Epping Laboratory are the offices of the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) which operates the Australia Telescope array of radio telescopes at Narrabri and the Parkes single dish. Also in Sydney are strong astronomy groups at Sydney University and the University of NSW. The other major optical observatory in Australia is at Mt Stromlo which is part of the Australian National University in Canberra, about 3.5 hours drive south of Sydney.

Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Springs, Australia

Anglo-Australian 3.9 meter Telescope (AAT)

Commissioned in 1974 the Anglo-AustralianTelescope was one of the last 4-meter equatorially mounted telescopes to be constructed. Important to the AAT's success has been its suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation, which is constantly being upgraded and improved. This is one of the telescopes that David Malin used for his tricolor astrophotography.


Another view of the AAT



The 48-inch UK Schmidt Camera
The United Kingdom Schmidt Telescope (UKST) is a special purpose camera or survey telescope with a very wide-angle field of view. It was designed to photograph 6.6 x 6.6 degree areas of the night sky on photographic plates 356 x 356 mm (14 x14 inches) square. This 1.2m (48-inch) telescope was commissioned in 1973, and became part of the AAO in 1988. From 1973 to 1988, the UKST was operated by the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. The initial task of the UKST was to construct a photographic survey of the entire southern sky. In addition to its photographic role the UKST also has a multi-object fibre spectroscopy system known as FLAIR.

This 48-inch Schmidt camera (telescope) is a classical Schmidt Camera. Its corrector plate is a full aperture achromatic cemented doublet. It gives images with a half maximum intensity width of better than 1 arcsecond at all photographic wavelengths in the absence of seeing or photographic effects. There are two 254 mm aperture guide telescopes, which are normally fitted with photoelectric offsetting autoguiders.


Mirror diameter 1.83m
Aperture diameter 1.24m
Focal length 3.07m
Radius of curvature at focal plane 3.07m
Plate scale 67.12 arcsec/m
Photographic plate size:
356mm square, covering 6.4 x 6.4 degrees of sky
Photographic plate thickness: 1mm
Unvignetted field radius (nominal) 2.7 degrees



In April, 1986 I visited Australia in order to photograph Comet Haley. I was fortunately granted space to set up my astrophotographic equipment on the observatory's grounds. The telescope in this photo is Tom Craig's (the then night attendent of the AAT) 12.5-inch Cave reflector.

Photo by Steve Mandel