Carter Observatory

At the top of the cable car, near the Victoria University of Wellington, is the Carter Observatory; the "National Observatory of New Zealand". The observatory doesn't do any research these days (although that may change in the near future when they acquire a professional CCD camera and search for asteroids) but it has at least two telescopes that are used by members of the public.

I had a visit to the observatory yesterday to check it out and visit their planetarium. The planetarium is fairly small (or big if you are used to an inflatable one as I am) but you get an excellent tour of the southern sky from the "Star Guides". They also cover quite a lot of good astrophysics from measuring distances to spectroscopy and redshifts. I enjoyed the show because I was able to orientate myself in the southern skies; I'm just about coping with Orion being stood on his head.

16 inch telescope
Carter Observatorys 16 inch Crisp telescope CREDIT: Stuart

The first telescope you see is the Ruth Crisp 16 inch telescope which recently had its mirror realuminised. It is a Cassegrain system and is electronically driven. The dome is also motorised. The other big telescope they have is an old cast iron and brass refracting telescope. It is a very elegant, gravity-driven telescope which was built in the north of England; there are marks on the drive mount that look as if they were set for a different latitude.

Carter Observatory telescope CREDIT: Stuart

Another cool thing is the kids climbing frame outside. It is set to point at the south pole and is also supposed to show the northern and southern limits of the Sun.

Climbing frame
Carter Observatory climbing frame CREDIT: Stuart

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 27th Jan 2006 (23:49 UTC) | 5 Comments | Permalink

Comments: Carter Observatory

Thanks for the update on your trip to the observatory. What is the size of the objective in the refractor?

Posted by Ben C. on Saturday 28th Jan 2006 (13:30 UTC)

Hey, they have one of those climbing frames at the AAT, too! The telescopes look really good as well :-) So, do you know your way around the Southern skies now?

Posted by Megan on Saturday 28th Jan 2006 (18:03 UTC)

This is cool stuff!

I barely know the northern skies, I don't know if I would ever get oriented to the southern skies.

Posted by Matt on Monday 30th Jan 2006 (03:15 UTC)

Ben C., I think it was 12 inches but I may be wrong.

Posted by Stuart on Monday 30th Jan 2006 (22:12 UTC)

I love that dome!

Posted by Tom on Tuesday 31st Jan 2006 (00:32 UTC)


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