Woomera Optical Observatory

A small observatory was established at Range G in the Woomera Prohibited Area. This is also where the gamma-ray telescopes of the CANGAROO collaboration are located. It's dark (on most nights the zodiacal light is visble, and the gegenschein has been seen on several occasions), isolated, and dry. And flat. And quiet.

The Observatory building consists of a steel frame with corrugated cladding, with a roll-a-door for the slit cover. The whole thing rotates on rollers, over a circular concrete base. It's about three metres in diameter and height, and with a Celestron C14 on a large fork mount, and a trolley for a couple of computers, the fit inside often was cosy.

The main scope is a C14; it had a C5 piggy-backed for auto-guiding with an SBIG ST-4 CCD. An ST-6 CCD with UBVRI and clear filters was used on the C14. Lumicon Sky-Vector encoders were placed on the fork mount's axes for position readout. All "dome" operations, start-up and shut-down, and object acquisition was manual.


The Shed : looking north-west to nowhere in particular


Inside the Shed : C14, C5 and CCD's, lots of cables and the slit door half-closed

Having set up the Observatory and telescope myself, I will say that it was not always a pleasure to use. But it did get the work done, and it was a pleasure to sit underneath the clear desert skies as it clicked and whirred and collected light from things hundreds, or millions, of light-years away.

And my thanks go to the people of Woomera for their kindness and courtesy whilst I worked out there. They were always friendly, and the technical staff in particular were always willing to do, or lend, whatever was needed to get things working.