Who we are, what we do, and how to find us

John Henley has been interested in astronomy for over 50 years, and purchased his first telescope with his first pay packet in 1961. He made his first telescope, a Newtonian with a 254 mm mirror, in 1966-69. When living in Warwick he built the East Warwick Observatory, a teaching and research facility which operated successfully from 1970 until he was transferred away from the Warwick area. John came to the Sunshine Coast in 1982 and was Principal at Mapleton State School until he retired in July 2002. After his retirement he established an observatory in the school grounds.

Relocating the East Warwick Observatory to Nambour in 2005 and rebuilding it as the Starfield Observatory was another post-retirement project. The 254 mm Newtonian telescope was completely refurbished and the optical surfaces enhanced.

A second building, a 4.5 metre Astrodome, was installed in July 2006 by Col Blumson of Yandina. A heavy telescope pier and power column were fabricated by Scott & Ensoll of Kunda Park. Many thanks to Manager Barry Bayfield for his help and interest. These items were installed over the Easter weekend of 2007.

A computer-controlled Paramount ME telescope mount arrived from Golden, Colorado and was erected on the pier after the security system was installed. An STL11000XM full frame astrocamera was delivered on March 8 of 2007. A new telescope arrived from Ritchey Chrétien Optical Systems of Flagstaff, Arizona in May and was placed on the Paramount. Commissioning of the telescope is now complete. These units have been ordered from the Australian agent, Advanced Telescope Supplies in Sydney. They are professional instruments which will allow a high standard of CCD astrophotography to be achieved. They will also provide the best views of celestial objects available to the public on the Sunshine Coast.

A general view of the Starfield Observatory at Nambour, with Astrodome, small roll-off roof Observatory, and workshop / display building.

 

The Astrodome and the all-sky Observatory.

 

The former East Warwick Observatory as reconstructed at Image Flat (left), with the new Astrodome.

 

The Astrodome has a diameter of 4.5 metres. The horizon at the site is unobscured in all directions.

 

The roof of the former East Warwick Observatory rolls off the building on rails.

 

The interior of the smaller observatory, showing the 25 cm Newtonian reflector and ancillary equipment.

 

Dim red light is used during visual observing, as it does not impede the eyes' dark adaption.

 

The roof is rolled off to the south on rails as far as is required.

 

Open for business. The red light has been brightened for this image.

 

Comet 2006 P1 McNaught was photographed on February 6, 2007 with the equipment shown in the two pictures above.

 

The stars and Comet McNaught wheel around the sky above the Astrodome on February 6, 2007.

 

 The interior of the Astrodome with the RCOS Ritchey Chrétien telescope on the Paramount ME.

 

The Paramount ME robotic mount uses TPoint to achieve exceptional pointing and tracking accuracy.

 

The optical tube assemblies, with the WO apochromatic refractor mounted on the RCOS. No finder scope is required due to the precision of the Paramount.

 

The north side of the pier, showing the movable control console with laptop computer on the far side.

 

The backplate of the RCOS telescope. The Telescope Command Centre mounted on the right controls remote focusing, heating and cooling of the optical elements.

 

Observing the planet Venus in daylight.

 

The observatory in readiness for a night's work.

 

The observatory interior under red night light.

 

John is a past President of the Astronomers' Association of Queensland (two terms), and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (based in London) in 1973. In 1980 he was contracted by NASA to provide pictures of navigation star fields for training Shuttle astronauts. His first illustrated article on astrophotography was published in a British photography magazine in 1973. Astrophotographs of his recently appeared in the March 2003 Sky & Telescope and in the October 2004 issue of Night Sky, and are used to illustrate this website, of which he is the author. He currently writes regular articles on the night sky for some Sunshine Coast newspapers.

The main purpose of the Observatory is educational, which is why it is open to the public, operates this website, produces newspaper articles and runs courses. The starry sky is so full of wonders that it should not simply be the province of a few enthusiasts, but accessible for the pleasure of all.

  

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the City of God which had been shown....       --- Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Nature, 1836, poet, author, essayist and philosopher

 

It is indeed a feeble light that reaches us from the starry sky. But what would human thought have achieved if we could not see the stars ?      --- Jean Perrin, French physicist and winner of the 1926 Nobel Prize for Physics

 

No sight that human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars....      --- Llewelyn Powys, philosopher and essayist


  We are located on the outskirts of Nambour on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Australia.

 

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