In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union


Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Perth Observatory, Australia

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage Description

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 167
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    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 18:40:14
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Old Perth Observatory (1896) in West Perth on Mount Eliza, Australia (Code 319).

The Perth Observatory was moved to Bickley near Mount Gungin in the Darling Range in 1965.
New Perth Observatory (Code 322, 323) 337 Walnut Rd Bickley, Kalamunda WA 6076, 35 km East of Perth in Bickley.

 

Location 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Latitude 32°00’28’’ S, Longitude 116°08’09’’ E, Elevation ...m above mean sea level.

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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323

 

Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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Old Perth Observatory on Mount Eliza (Wikipedia 3,

Fig. 1. Old Perth Observatory on Mount Eliza (Wikipedia 3, Nachoman-au)



The Perth Observatory on Mount Eliza is the oldest in West Australia, founded in 1896, and opened in 1900. The observatory was moved to the New Perth Observatory in Bickley in 1965. The old observatory dome was demolished in the 1960s.

The first activities of William Ernest Cooke were time service (Standard Time for Western Australia), tides, meteorology, and support to surveying. A time ball was dropped at 1 p.m. daily at the Round House at Fremantle and in Hay Street, Perth, and in addition a time gun (1902) was fired at 1 p.m. at Perth and Fremantle. Time signals from two clocks were sent out by telegraph, also for the railway network. In 1901, he also participated in the international star cataloguing and charting project, the "Cape Photographic Durchmusterung" (CPD). A Catalogue of 420 Standard Stars was published by the Perth Observatory in 1907.

Digitization in 1960 in Bergedorf, located in the

Fig. 2. Digitization in 1960 in Bergedorf, located in the Sonnenbau, lower floor.
Left: Spectra of stars were photographed and then measured with a scanner. The measurements came hitherto as a curve on paper, but now also as numbers on punched cards.
Right: The diameter of the round stellar image was measured with the "irisphotometer" and the number was punched.
(Wilhelm Dieckvoss, Archive of Hamburg Observatory)



Main research topics of the new Perth Observatory in Bickley are compilation of the largest southern star catalogues like the Perth 70 catalogue (1976), Perth 75 catalogue (1982), Perth 83 catalogue (1983), photographic astrometry on minor planets and comets, and participation in a worldwide observing program on solar system planets.

Computer room of Perth Observatory 1971 for compil

Fig. 3. Computer room of Perth Observatory 1971 for compiling the Perth Catalogues.
GIER in the brown cupboard was one of the first transistorized computers. Mrs Ilse Holst at the reader for 8-channel punched tape, one role could contain 0.00012 Gbytes. The tape from reader or punch poured into a large basket and could then be
quickly rolled up. (Bernd Loibl)



Especially interesting are the Perth catalogues, like the Perth 70 catalogue (1976), Perth 75 catalogue (1982), Perth 83 catalogue (1983), based on the Hamburg meridian circle, working in Perth since 1967. Erik Hoeg introduced the photon-counting astrometry as the basic measuring technique in Hipparcos, a technique invented by the author in 1960 in Hamburg. This technique was implemented on the Repsold meridian circle for the Hamburg expedition to Perth where he worked during 1967 to 1972.

 

History 
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    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Some of the important research that has been completed at the Observatory include: (Homepage Perth)

  • Co-discovered Uranus’s ring system
  • Publishing numerous Meridian Catalogues during its history
  • Was part of the NASA International Planetary Patrol in partnership with the Lowell Observatory
  • Our Astrographic telescope produced 10%
    of all ground-based positions for Comet Halley
  • Our Automated Supernova Search has discovered 30 supernovae
  • Discovered 29 Minor Planets for the period between 1970 and 1999
  • Helped discover the super-earth exoplanet OGLE-2005-BLG-390lb

Western Australia (WA) Government Astronomers and Directors

 

William Ernest Cooke (1863--1947); Observatory staWilliam Ernest Cooke (1863--1947); Observatory sta

Fig. 4a,b. William Ernest Cooke (1863--1947); Observatory staff, c.1900. The first Government Astronomer, W. Ernest Cooke is seated at the left. His successor Harold Curlewis, is standing in the light coloured suit. (Wikipedia)


 


  • William Ernest Cooke (1863--1947), 1896 to 1912

    Cooke was before in Adelaide Observatory. He visited Paris, Nice, Strasbourg and Brussels, as well as visiting Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope in order to be informed about the best instruments. In 1912 he left for Sydney.
     
  • Harold Burnham Curlewis (1875--1968), 1912/1920 to 1940
     
  • Hyman Solomon Spigl (1911--1962), 1940 and 1962
     
  • John Bertrand Harris (1925--1975), (1957)/1962 to 1974

    He was responsible for the transfer of the Perth Observatory from Mt. Eliza to Bickley during the 1960s. In 1967, Harris oversaw the installation of a meridian circle telescope at the Perth Observatory as part of the expedition by German astronomers from Hamburg Observatory.




  • Dr Ivan [Iwan] Nikoloff (1921--2015), (1964)/1974 to 1985

    Born in Bulgaria, he worked in Mount Stromlo Observatory, Indonesia, and Vienna. He helped to organize the relocation of the Perth Observatory from Perth to Bickley (1965). He was in charge of the Perth Observatory Meridian Section with the loan of the Hamburg Meridian Circle (1971) - Perth 70 - A Catalogue of Positions of 24,900 Stars (1976),  Perth 75 catalogue of 2549 stars (1982) - important for the construction of the new FK5 reference frame, Perth 83 catalogue (Harwood, D., 1983).



    Members of the Perth Observatory staff in December

    Fig. 5. Members of the Perth Observatory staff in December 1969.
    From left: Miss I. Wardrop, Mrs H. von der Heide, Mr J. Pratt, Mr J. von der Heide, Mr L. Cloud, Mrs K. Pratt, Mr D. Gans, Mr R. Hutchins, Mr M. Candy, H. Sharpe, Mr D. Harwood, Mr. D. Griffiths, S. Constantine, Mr J. Harris. (Photo: Erik Høg)




  • Michael Philip Candy (1928--1994), (1969)/1984 to 1993

  • James D. Biggs, 1994 to 2010
  • Ralph Martin, 2013 until today


 

Instruments

  • Small transit telescope (1897)
  • Chronometer
  • Two standard German precision clocks were installed to track sidereal time and solar mean time (1898)
  • Perth-Lowell Telescope

     

  • Astrograph
  • Zeiss plate measuring machine

    The Hamburg meridian circle, made by Repsold, read

    Fig. 6. The Hamburg meridian circle, made by Repsold, ready for the Perth expedition in 1966. (Wilhelm Dieckvoss, Archive of Hamburg Observatory)


     
  • Hamburg Observatory meridian circle telescope expedition for  the Perth 70 catalogue


     

  • 61-cm-Reflector in Bickley

 

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 167
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 18:41:17
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The Old Perth Observatory at Mount Eliza is used by the National Trust. The house of the chief astronomer of the old observatory remained today. The old observatory dome was demolished in the 1960s.

The dome for the 61-cm-Reflector of Perth Observat

Fig. 7. The dome for the 61-cm-Reflector of Perth Observatory in Bickley



New Perth Observatory in Bickley (1965): In recognition of its scientific, cultural and historical significance, the Observatory was entered on the state’s Heritage Register in 2005: Western Australia Heritage Register: State Registered Place, 19 July 2005, Reference no. 10551, being Australia’s oldest continuing operating observatory.

 

Present use 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 167
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 18:41:51
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The Old Perth Observatory at Mount Eliza is now home to the WA branch of the National Trust.


Astronomical relevance today
In 1965, the observatory was moved due to light pollution to Bickley, 337 Walnut Rd Bickley, Kalamunda WA 6076 (32°00’28’’S 116°08’09’’E), 35 km East of Perth in Bickley (new Perth Observatory: Code 322, 323) - 61cm reflector.
The Florian asteroid 3953 Perth was named in honor of the observatory.

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 167
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 18:42:25
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Craig Bowers, Gudrun Wolfschmidt and the author in

Fig. 6. Craig Bowers, Gudrun Wolfschmidt and the author in Hamburg in 2012. (Photo: Craig Bowers)




  • Bowers, Craig Lambert: The Scientific History of the Perth Observatory from 1960 to 1993. PhD thesis, Murdoch University, 2016, p. 276.
  • Harris, Bertrand John (1925-1974). In: Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/harris-bertrand-john-10433

  • Hendrie, Michael J.: Obituary - Candy, Michael-Philip - 1928-1994. In: Journal of the British Astronomical Association 105 (1995), No. 2, p. 56.

  • Hoeg, Erik: Astrometry 1960-1980: from Hamburg to Hipparcos. In: Wolfschmidt, Gudrun (ed.): Kometen, Sterne, Galaxien -- Astronomie in der Hamburger Sternwarte. Comets, Stars, Galaxies -- Astronomy in Hamburg Observatory. Dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of Hamburg Observatory in Bergedorf 2012. Hamburg: tredition (Nuncius Hamburgensis; Vol. 24) 2014, p. 84-153.

  • Perth 70: Positions of 24900 Stars (Hoeg et al.,  1976) (
  • Perth70,Perth)
  • Perth 75 Catalogue (Nikoloff et al., 1982)  (Perth75,Perth)
  • PERTH 83 (Harwood, D.N., 1990)  (Perth83,Perth).

  • Schmadel, Lutz D.: (3953) Perth. In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names - (3953) Perth. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer 2007, p. 337.

  • Western Australian astronomy almanac. Bickley: W.A. Perth Observatory (2007 edition).

 

Links to external sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 167
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2021-03-10 18:43:15
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt


  • Homepage Perth: https://www.perthobservatory.com.au/
  • CDS Catalogues. I. Astrometric Data:
    http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/cats/I.htx
  • Nikoloff, I. In: Trove, National Library of Australia (2009), https://nla.gov.au/nla.party-1294232, https://www.eoas.info/biogs/P001989b.htm

 

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