Observations

Accessing the sky: the building of Sydney Observatory’s new dome – post 2

This is the second in a series of blog posts about the building of a new dome on Sydney Observatory’s heritage site.  In my previous  post I described why a new building was being constructed and who funded the project.  The architects, builders and project managers, who are making a long-term vision now a reality, were acknowledged.

So much has happened in the week beginning 22 September!

Ariel shot of Astrograph dome
The polished concrete floor at the base of the dome and in the foyer and display areas as viewed from the time ball tower. Photograph G. Wyatt.

On a clear sunny morning at the start of the week the concrete slab was poured and polished. It is very easy to see the shape of the dome and the foyer in the photograph above. Andrew Jacob, our astronomy curator, inspected the base of on which the pier for the new telescope will sit, to ensure there was enough separation so that any vibration from the floor does not affect the telescope. Other important services such as power and data are now locked in, and the builders confirmed most of the materials have been ordered. One of the challenges of the project is the delivery and installation of the historic dome. In the photograph below taken by astronomy curator Dr Nick Lomb you can see the dome being removed in 1986. The reason for removal was that Macquarie University was planning to build its own observatory in which the telescope located in this dome, and the dome would be re-purposed for further research. Nick worked closely with Professor Alan Vaughan to ensure the instruments, dome , photographic negatives and associated log books were all preserved. Dr Lomb kept his photographic record and now it is useful in determining the best way to return the dome onto the new building.

Susan McMunn and Adam Adair are working closely with Zadro Constructions to keep the building program on-track, and behind the scenes NSW Government Architects Office are providing  advice on numerous details which emerge during the construction phase.

Astrograph dome removal 1986
Removal of the Dome in 1986. Photograph Nick Lomb.

This project’s target audience is people living with disabilities, so accessibility is core to every part of the project. Whilst the building work is progressing there is much activity and planning behind the scenes for the exhibition, the launch and the programs for which the new facility with its accessible telescope will be used. MAAS  Director, Rose Hiscock, held a meeting with the project’s major funders, NSW Department of Family and Community Services, Ageing, Disability and Home Care to update senior staff on progress and discuss the media strategy. 

In my next blog you will be introduced to an important member of our team, Andrew James, our consultant ‘accessibility’ astronomer. Andrew is a well-known and respected amateur astronomer who is extremely knowledgeable about the night sky and also an authority on the history of astronomy in Australia, particularly Sydney Observatory. Andrew has embarked on a remarkable on-line project making much of the history of our site, as written by the astronomers, publicly available via his website. Andrew will be looking closely at some of the finer details of the new telescope and the exhibition content.

The critical dates for the project completion are delivery of the restored historic dome and astrographic telescope , completion of the building works, installation and commissioning of the new telescope, and installation of the interpretive display.

Astrograph Dome construction
The project team, Susan McMunn MAAS, John Winter Zadro Constructions, Andrew Jacob MAAS, inspect the recently poured concrete slab. Photograph, Toner Stevenson, MAAS.

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