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University of Adelaide Optical Observatory

Observatory dome exterior

HEAG has access to an observatory on the University's North Adelaide campus. Despite its thoroughly urban location in the city, and the presence of considerable light pollution in its vicinity, it is capable of useful scientific data on appropriate targets.

Most of the research undertaken here involves CCD photometry of exoplanet host stars, and of cataclysmic variable stars.

A Brief History

The observatory was built around the 1940's, and the original telescope within the dome was an 8" Thomas Cooke and Sons refractor telescope. This instrument initially was located at the former South Australian Government Observatory on West Terrace, Adelaide, and dates from around the 1870's.

Whilst records for the years preceding the 1970's are scarce, it is known that the observatory was used for student instruction during the 1970's and some of the 1980's. Some project work on photography and photometry was carried out, but results on the former at least were limited, due to the slow focal ratio of the instrument, and difficulties with tracking and guiding during the exposures.

In around 1980, the 8" refractor was replaced by a Celestron C14 14" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, a considerable improvement over the usability of the former telescope. In 1994, the C14 optics were relocated to the Woomera optical observatory.

Observatory, 1971

Observatory exterior, 1971

Refractor telescope, 1971

Observatory interior, 1971

Current telescope

Current telescope, 2015

In 2002, an 8" Meade LX-200 was installed in the campus observatory, and started to be used with the CCD camera that formerly was in use at Woomera (an SBIG ST-6A with six-position filter wheel). This combination allowed effective observations to be carried out, and some observations of cataclysmic variables were undertaken in collaboration with the Centre for Backyard Astrophysics Link to external site at Columbia University, New York. Also, student projects on photometry, imaging and basic spectroscopy were started.

Furthermore, by observing the known transiting exoplanet HD209458b, it was found that the telescope was capable of useful data on transiting exoplanets (typical magnitude errors at the milli-magnitude level, 8" telescope, V filter, binned 20-second integrations).

In about 2006, the 8" was replaced by the C14 optics mounted in a larger Meade LX-200 fork mounting, and soon a larger and more efficient SBIG ST-9 CCD camera was bought. Since then, most observations have been of exoplanet host stars. Student work is undertaken, including projects in basic spectroscopy, deep-sky and solar imaging, and photometry.


Optics : Celestron C14 f/11, 0.35-metre diameter, nominal focal length 391.16 cm

Mount : Meade LX-200, circa 2003

Cameras : SBIG ST-9 CCD, 512 x 512 pixels, 20-micron pixels; ZWO ASI 120MM camera.

Filters : SBIG UBVRI and clear, 1.25" diameter in SBIG CFW-8A filter wheel

Other : Rainbow Optics 200 line/mm transmission diffraction grating; Shelyak LHIRES III spectrograph on loan from Penrith Observatory, UWS.

High-Energy Astrophysics
Please direct any enquiries to:

School of Physical Sciences
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005


T: +61 8 8313 5996
F: +61 8 8313 4380