A MILLION DOLLAR UPGRADE of one of Australia’s longest serving telescopes has just begun at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in New South Wales, involving the four principal designers who worked on the project when it began at Mt Stromlo in Canberra in the early 1980s.
Dr Gary Hovey from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The Australian National University has been dragged out of retirement to play a major part in the upgrade of the 2.3-metre telescope along with 87-year-old mechanical engineer Herman Wehner.
“The four of us have periodically worked on the telescope for 30 years but we haven’t worked together as a design team since the early 1990s,” he said.
“For most of us, building the 2.3 metre telescope was the major and formative experience of our careers so it is gratifying to see that ‘the old workhorse’ is still able to make a contribution to modern astronomical research.”
“The last decade has seen a marked degradation of the fabric of the building, frequent electronic damage from lightning strikes and increasing problems with the procurement of spares,” Dr Hovey added.
“The proposed refurbishment will address these issues and will ensure that the 2.3 metre telescope functions well as a remotely controlled observing facility for all Australian astronomers.”
The two-year overhaul will involve substantial reconditioning of the mechanical and electronic systems of the telescope and the co-rotating building, which serves as a dome, as well as fixing the building cladding and redesigning the ventilation system.
The other members of the original design team involved are John Hart and Jan van Harmelen. They will be working with the past and current maintenance engineers at Siding Spring Observatory, Malcolm Harris and Geoff White, managed by Liam Waldron.
“Although telescopes such as the 2.3-metre seem small in comparison to the behemoths now being built overseas, they can play a vital role in defining the frontiers of research and in the training of post-graduate students,” Dr Hovey said.
“If the promise of high performance instruments such as the new Wide Field Spectrograph is to be realised, then it is essential that the performance and reliability of the telescope be secured for another decade.”
Adapted from information issued by ANU.
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