Southern Cross Observatory

Location: Tasmania Australia - 42-50-31 South 147-25-19 East


Former Member Leeds University Astronomical Society 1965 (UK)

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Tasmania is located off the southern Australian mainland. 

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Located outside Tasmania's capital city, Hobart, the privately owned 'Southern Cross Observatory' (SCO) was originally established in 1969 on the western side of the Derwent River. Tasmania enjoys pristine unpolluted southern skies, where, on clear nights the stars vanish at ground level through the trees. Situated a mere 1.1 kilometers from the University of Tasmania's optical observatory on Mt Canopus. A 7-metre houses a 1.04 metre telescope and 3.5m dome houses a 40cm (16") telescope which date back to the 1960's & 70's. These three observatories, are the most southernmost in Australia. The location is unique for serious astronomy yet only 12 km from a capital city.

The 'Southern Cross Observatory' Mark II, is a 4-metre rotating structure of unusual design.  Here Construction started in1999 and it remains a work in progress, as these projects usually are. Equipment Here is continuously being added to or modified to suit the wide range of projects undertaken - as time & weather permits. I am indebted to Martin Ritchie who helped in the early steel construction stages, and Laurie Priest who has provided expert electrical, electronic & data cable install/setup assistance. Help from both these friends is ongoing.

This observatory follows on from the first smaller traditional 10' dome built in 1969, to house a re-designed 12" f/6.7 Newtonian with a smaller 5.25" f/10 Newtonian with uncoated optics, used for solar photography with my own manufactured full aperture aluminised solar filter (1966) which was a new concept back then. Details were published in the journal of the British Astronomical Association in 1966. I was using 5.25 inches of aperture at f/10- while the BAA Solar Section people were limited to 3 inches at f/15 with their eyepiece filters! (There is a story attached to this, newbies coming up with revolutionary ideas such as this - can cause ripples within a BAA Section!)

The telescopes and equipment were originally built in the UK and shipped out to Tasmania along with our household goods.

This new, 4-metre rotating 'dome' of unusual design, houses a much upgraded/modified 12" (30cm) f/5 home built Newtonian reflector on the same equatorial fork mount, but with improved computer controlled drives & DSC, unlike the electric  drives & valve frequency inverter built in the 1960's. The square tube design allows for several other telescopes to be mounted piggy-back style on both upper & lower sides. It has served as a test bed for a fork mounted 16" Newtonian now under construction, which will replace it in due course. 

 The new smaller 2.5 m "Mathers OctaDome"  here  is another versatile home design, with 8 separate 'petals' that can be opened individually or as many as required. Designed to allow 180-degree sky photography down to my horizon with video & still cameras. Three telescopes mounted on a Anssen Technologies 'Alhena' GEM including motor and twin shaft encoders with FS2 Drive electronics. Mounted on a substantial all stainless steel pier that can be raised & lowered by an electric jacking system to give down to horizon imaging. 

*** This is a great free program for viewing your images ***


Above image* The aurora spans 180 degrees from the eastern to western horizon and is part of a circumpolar circle. It is 5 full frames stitched together. Imaged with a Nikon D200 & 28mm lens. Mt Canopus observatory at left (east) camera facing due south. 

ALL images / material on this site are copyright  (c) Shevill Mathers-SCO.

Not to be used without permission from the author.

Website published May 2008



Shevill Mathers, Hon. Research Associate,

School of Maths & Physics,

                    University of Tasmania

Private Bag 37, Hobart Tasmania 7001

email: shevill.mathers@utas.edu.au






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