The Association for Astronomy in the Department of Physics and Astronomy invites you to observe the cosmos with your own eyes at the Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory. View planets, moons, binary stars, star clusters and nebulae through our newly upgraded 12″ and 16″ professional in-dome telescopes and our range of portable telescopes.
You will be guided by our knowledgeable astronomy staff, so please bring along any astronomy questions you may have.
Friday and Saturday night observing sessions
COVID-19 update (June): on-campus events are significantly impacted by restrictions in response to the global health crisis. Our public observing sessions aren't currently running and the Astronomy Open Night will not proceed in 2020. We're hopeful that public Fri and Sat night sessions will be able to start up again in Nov/Dec 2020. Stay safe - we hope to see you again soon!
Observatory sessions are normally held on Friday and Saturday nights throughout most of the year (excluding public holidays) and run for 90 minutes. Session start times vary throughout the year due to shifting sunset times and Daylight Saving. A full schedule of session start times for 2020 can be found in the pdf document here.
Bookings are essential and all tickets for admission are sold online. We are unable accept cash at the door. Please navigate to our Eventbrite page to view currently available dates and to purchase tickets - not currently selling
Attending the observatory is weather dependent... unfortunately we can't see the stars if it's cloudy or raining. A decision will be made by 5pm on the day of each session as to whether it will go ahead or be cancelled. In either case, an announcement will be posted to our Facebook page. Full refunds are issued in the case of bad weather. Minimum sales are required for sessions to go ahead, and limits apply so book early to avoid disappointment.
Private bookings: school, scout or small groups
COVID-19 update (June): on-campus events are significantly impacted by restrictions in response to the global health crisis. Our public observing sessions aren't currently running and the Astronomy Open Night will not proceed in 2020. We're hopeful that private observatory and on-site planetarium sessions will be able to start up again in Nov/Dec 2020. In the meantime we may be able to arrange a virtual planetarium session for you. Stay safe - we hope to see you again soon!
For all enquiries about school, scout or guide groups, private bookings, off-site visits and tailored observatory, telescope and/or planetarium sessions, please complete this online form. A member of staff from the AfA will respond to your enquiry once they have had a chance to review the request.
Note that costs for any private session will be determined on the basis of complexity, duration, group size, equipment and staff required.
- 16″ Meade Telescope f/10 – Effective focal length: 4064mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 150x. The telescope is used for public viewing on Friday/Saturday nights and is used for group visits and research on other nights of the week.
- 12″ Meade GPS Telescope f/10– Effective focal length: 3048mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 100x. This telescope is also used on Friday/Saturday nights, and for group visits.
- 10" Meade LX200 Telescope f/10 – Another of Meade's fine products. Thankfully donated to the University.
- 10" Dobsonion f/5 – Used on nights with very large groups. Donated to the University by Professor David Coutts.
- 9.25" Celestron f/10 – Used on trips away from the observatory but can also be set-up at the sites for larger groups.
- 8″ Celestron C8 f/10 – Used on nights with very large groups.
- 8″ Dobsonian – Used on nights with very large groups.
- TEC 140mm ED APO – combined with a Field Flattener and a large scale CCD (SBIG 16803) this famous Telescope can produce some truly stunning images.
- Explore Scientific FC 102mm APO CF f/7 – Another telescope o take wide-field images of the DSO's.
- Explore Scientific ED 80 mm APO f/6 – Used with a Ca K-line filter to image the Sun.
- Project PANOPTES – for more details go to https://projectpanoptes.org/
- 3.2-metre radio telescope – May be operated remotely from the physics computing laboratory on campus.
We have a dedicated group of past and present students who have been photographing many astronomical objects over the past couple of years.
See the latest images below:
|Mosaic of Carina Nebula in H-Alpha (Andrew Lehmann) 2016||Carina Nebula (Andrew Lehmann) 2016||Trifid Nebula (Michael Hammang) 2015|
|Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (Michael Hammang) 2015||Eagle Nebula (Michael Hammang) 2015||Jupiter | 16" LX200 | ZWO ASI174MC 2017|
|Jupiter (Adam Joyce) 2017||Souther Pinwheel Galaxy (Jacob Pember) 2017||Mosaic of Lagoon Nebula (Ellen Houston) 2017|
|Moon (Julia Wilks) 2017||Saturn (Jack Nibbs) 2017||Omega Nebula (Jack Nibbs) 2017|
|M8 and M20 Mosaic (Ellen Houston) 2017||Carina Nebula Mosaic (Ellen Houston) 2017|
Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory (Photo Credit: Chris Artlett)
History of the observatory
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 29 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.
In 2019, a significant upgrade was completed to the Observatory site, adding 4 new piers, kitchen, storage, control room, and a research lab. Opened on the 2nd of December by VC Prof. S. Bruce Dowton and Patron of the AFA Prof. Fred Watson.
Unfortunately observing through the telescopes is reliant on the weather being optimal for the session to go ahead. We use multiple sources to predict the weather which are shown below:
- Bureau of Meteorology: Radar loop for the local Sydney area produced by the Bureau of Meteorology. A lot of data on this website that is useful for predicting the local forecast.
- Clear Outside: This website also has an app for iOS and Android and contains a lot of useful information such as cloud coverage, rain indicator and an indicator of any passovers by the International Space Station. By simply choosing your location (the link above is for Macquarie Park) you can get the local forecast and all the other information needed to decide on your observing likelihood. There is a also a good guided tour of the website.
- Norwegian Meteorological Institute: Another website that give a handy forecast of the local conditions in regards to cloud coverage and rain. Created by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and also having a place to enter a location (North Ryde is the choice in the above link), you can get a fairly accurate prediction of the local weather.
- Astronomy Weather Information: Obvious images show the conditions for observing at the location selected (Macquarie Park in this link).
- Fourmilab: This website shows the star map of your location (Macquarie University uses Lat: -33.78 Long: 151.12) for any time you enter. Quick and easy to show what astronomical objects may be visible from your location.
The Milky Way visible from Macquarie University Observatory via 29 stacked images from a Canon 80D camera.