Old Perth Observatory. Image Credit: State Library of Western Australia

Western Australia’s oldest observatory, Perth Observatory will celebrate its 125th birthday today. The Observatory was part of a major public facility spend which included the Perth Mint and the WA Museum by Western Australia’s first premier Sir John Forrest to get the colony of Western Australia ready for the Federation of Australia. Due to two failed attempts to obtain funding for the Observatory, Forrest hid the Observatory’s budget costs under that for the Perth Mint and the WA Museum.

Originally located on Mount Eliza in West Perth, the Observatory’s foundation stone was laid on the 29th of September 1896 and it aimed to accurately determine the Longitude and Latitude of Perth so it could provide the time for Perth and 21 towns around Western Australia and make observations of the southern sky as part of the Carte du Ciel project. It also provided the weather reports for Western Australia until 1908, recorded seismic activity for Perth and ran astronomy nights for the Western Australian public.

The Perth Observatory’s telescope area at night. Image Credit: Andrew Lockwood

In 1966, The Observatory moved to Bickley in the Perth Hills to escape the ever-increasing light pollution from Perth. While in Bickley, the Observatory made a major contribution to astronomy by participating in NASA’s International Planetary Patrol to monitor the planets in the early 1970s, co-discovering Uranus’s ring system, publishing numerous star catalogues, studying Comet Halley, and discovering minor planets, supernovas and an exoplanet. In 2005 for the work and contribution to Western Australia, the Observatory was entered on the state’s Heritage Register.

With funding moved to the Square Kilometre Array project in 2013, the role of the Observatory moved to that of public outreach for astronomy and as of the 1st of July 2015, the Perth Observatory Volunteer Group has run the Observatory for the Western Australian Government to provide the Observatory with a bright future and a place to inspire the public and young minds.

The Calver Telescope on a Night Sky Tour. Image Credit: Roger Groom

This Saturday the 2nd of October between 10 am to 9 pm Perth Observatory will hold CosmosCon to celebrate its 125th birthday which will involve guided tours, children astronomy activities, live music, safe viewing of the Sun & night objects and astronomy talks.

Bookings for CosmosCon can be made on the Perth Observatory’s website: https://www.perthobservatory.com.au/cosmoscon