The Macquarie University Observatory was originally constructed as a research facility but, since 1997, has also been accessible to the public through its Public Observing Program on Friday nights. The Observatory saw a record crowd on the night of 29th August 2003, with 667 visitors attending to observe the Opposition of Mars.
The Observatory was first opened in 1978 at a different location. The Association for Astronomy was established in 1988 by Dr. Alan Vaughan to raise funds for further development of the observatory, which was moved to its present site in the early 1990s. The second dome, which houses the 16″ Meade telescope, was opened by Professor John Loxton on 3 May 1997. Construction of this dome was funded by Macquarie University and the Foundation for Astronomy (now the ‘Association for Astronomy’).
The Public Observing Program was operated from 1997 until the end of 2001 by a privately-operated business: Southern Skies Mobile Observatory. From 2002-2011, the Public Observing Program has been operated by astronomy undergrad and postgrad students. Much of this work was voluntary. As of 2012, the observatory is operated by trained staff through the revamped Association for Astronomy.
- 16″ Meade Telescope – Effective focal length: 4064mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 150x. The telescope is used for public viewing on Friday nights and is used for group visits and research on other nights of the week.
- 12″ Meade GPS Telescope – Effective focal length: 2670mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 100x. This telescope is also used on Friday nights, and for group visits.
- 8″ Celestron C8 – Used on nights with very large groups.
- 8″ Dobsonian – Used on nights with very large groups.
- 3.2-metre radio telescope – May be operated remotely from the physics computing laboratory on campus.
The 3.2-metre radio telescope at the observatory is a small dish, suitable for observing the Sun. With radio astronomy we do not see an image, as with an optical telescope, but can map the signal strength in different directions on the sky. The main purpose of the radio telescope is to educate students in the basics of radio astronomy.
Several of our astronomy units have an observing component, where students visit the observatory at night to observe various astronomical objects. This program has also now been expanded to include use of our new CCD camera for astrophotography.
Undergraduate Units in Astronomy
- ASTR170 – Introductory Astronomy: Our Place in the Universe
- ASTR178 – Other Worlds: Planets and Planetary Systems
- ASTR278 – Advanced Astronomy
- ASTR377 – Astrophysics I
- ASTR378 – General Relativity
- ASTR310 – Frontiers of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Although we are located in the Sydney Metropolitan area, we have had some recent success imaging deep-sky objects using our astronomical cameras.
MRes and PhD Research Projects
From time to time, post graduate projects are conducted at the observatory. Optical astronomical equipment used in conjunction with the telescopes includes CCD cameras for imaging and photometry, and a single-fibre spectroscope for obtaining object spectra. For more information please go to the Higher Degree Research Page for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
How to get Here
Location: Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory (map), Building W16A (end of N3 car park), off Gymnasium Rd, Macquarie Park NSW
The Astronomical Observatory is located on the northern grounds of Macquarie University, off Gymnasium Road, near the corner of Culloden and Waterloo Roads. Once on Gymnasium Road, take the first left onto the N3 car park. The observatory is at the northeast side of the lot – you can’t miss it. Parking is free for the first two hours with a ticket and free after 8pm without a ticket.
A “Pay and Display” ticket must be acquired from the machine in the N3 car park. Without entering any coins, press the OK button to obtain your two-hour free parking ticket to be displayed on your dash. Parking fees for daytime parking in excess of two hours are strictly enforced and heavy fines are levied for non-payment.