23 July 2004
Australian & UK Schools get top New Telescope
School students in Australia
and the UK have just
received a research tool that many an astronomer might envy – a new robotic
telescope that has just opened its eye at The Australian National University’s
(ANU) Siding Spring Observatory in eastern Australia.
The A$9 million telescope has been funded by British
philanthropist Dr Martin ("Dill") Faulkes. With a mirror 2m in
diameter, it is the third-largest optical telescope in Australia.
Faulkes Telescope South, as it is called, complements
Faulkes Telescope North on the island
of Maui in Hawai’i, which saw ‘first light’ in August
return for hosting the new telescope at Siding Spring, ANU will receive 15 per
cent of its observing time. The University has donated two-thirds of this time
to a program for Australian schools, giving young Australians unprecedented
access to their skies.
staff prepared the site for construction and will operate the telescope on a
day-to-day basis. “This is a
fantastic opportunity for students in both the UK
and Australia to come
face-to-face with deep space using state-of-the-art equipment,” said the
Director of the ANU
of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Professor Penny Sackett.
Australian students will most commonly use the telescope in
its robotic mode, in which observations are scheduled ahead of time and carried
out automatically by the telescope.
students may also use this mode. They will also be able to control the
telescope in ‘real time’ through the Internet during their daytime classes.
Both the UK
are developing education programs that use the telescope’s capabilities. The Faulkes Telescope Australia
education project is run from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. Schools will submit their observing requests
to Swinburne, which will have them scheduled, the observations made, and the
data returned to the school.
“We are looking forward to bringing the excitement and
discovery of astronomy to the students of Australia,” said the
Swinburne Project Scientist, Professor Duncan Forbes.
A pilot education program will be
run in late 2004. A full program should be ready for the start of the
Australian school year in 2005.
The Anglo-Australian Observatory, which has two telescopes
at Siding Spring, will support Faulkes Telescope South by re-coating the metal
surface of its mirror every six months and providing some other technical
The Faulkes Telescopes have been
designed and built by UK
company Telescope Technologies Ltd, which also built the Liverpool Telescope on
the island of La Palma. The three are the world’s
largest fully robotic telescopes.
“When it’s being operated
robotically, Faulkes Telescope South will use sophisticated scheduling software
to decide in which order it should make observations. This software takes into
account the environmental conditions, such as windspeed and the amount of
moisture in the air, the quality of the observations required,” explained TTL’s
Software Team leader, Martyn Ford.
Construction of Faulkes Telescope
South started in December 2003. The last
stages of the installation went smoothly. The primary mirror was installed by
lunchtime on Friday 9 July, and by 7 p.m. that day the engineers were viewing the
star Spica, in the constellation Virgo, through an eyepiece.
With Faulkes Telescope South
complete, ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory is now home to nine telescopes,
belonging to the ANU, the Anglo-Australian Observatory, UNSW, and now Faulkes
Dr Martin ‘Dill’ Faulkes studied cosmology for his PhD from Queen Elizabeth
College, London. He then moved into the software
industry, using the computing expertise he'd gained in astronomy. He has been
developing software companies worldwide for more than 20 years.
The Faulkes Telescope Australia project is managed from Swinburne
University of Technology, with support from The Australian National University,
Charles Sturt University
and The Anglo-Australian Observatory.
Associate Professor Duncan Forbes,
Swinburne University of Technology
Dr. Chris Fluke, Swinburne University
Dr. Quentin Parker, Macquarie University and the Anglo-Australian
Dr. Brad Carter, University of Southern
Dr. Paul Francis, Australian National University
Dr. Glen Mackie, Swinburne University
Mr Cameron Bell
Mr Bill Cooper
The CASS foundation
The Dill Faulkes Educational Trust
The Ian Potter Foundation
The William Buckland Foundation
Australian National University
Penny Sackett, Director, Research
School of Astronomy
and Astrophysics. Tel: (02) 6125 0266, email:
Bruce Peterson, RSAA
Tel: +61-2-6125-8035, email:
Julie Houghton, Manager, Siding Spring Observatory Exploratory
Tel: +61-2-6842-6211, email:
Swinburne University of Technology
Duncan Forbes (currently travelling)
Tel: (03) 9214 4392, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: (03) 9214 5743, email: email@example.com
Macquarie University and Anglo-Australian
Tel: +61-2-6842-6301, email:
Telescope Technologies Limited
Tel: (at Faulkes Telescope South site) +61-2-6842-6345,
- Scott Cherry Tel: +44-(0)151 650 3100
Faulkes Telescope Project
Paul Roche, Director, Faulkes Telescope Project
Tel +44-(0)29-2087-5121, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr Lucie Green, Communications Manager, Faulkes Telescope Project
Tel: +44-(0)29 2087 5121 (office), +44-(0)7884 426104 (mob.)
- The Faulkes
Telescope Project – http://www.faulkes-telescope.com
education pages - http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/faulkes/
Technologies Limited- http://www.ngat.com
First light/mirror installation photos
Relations and Media Liaison, Anglo-Australian Observatory
(office) 0419-635-905 (mob.)