Anglo-Australian Telescope

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Anglo-Australian Telescope
Organization Australian Astronomical Observatory
Location(s) Siding Spring Observatory, Australia
Coordinates 31°16′31″S 149°04′02″E / 31.2754°S 149.0672°E / -31.2754; 149.0672Coordinates: 31°16′31″S 149°04′02″E / 31.2754°S 149.0672°E / -31.2754; 149.0672
Wavelength optical, IR
Built 1974
First light April 27, 1974 (1974-04-27)
Telescope style prime/Cassegrain/coudé
Diameter 3.9 m, 12.8 ft
Collecting area 12 m2, 129 ft2
Focal length 12.7 m, 42.7 ft
Mounting equatorial
Dome spherical

The Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) is a 3.9 m equatorially mounted telescope operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory and situated at the Siding Spring Observatory, Australia at an altitude of a little over 1100 m. In 2009, the telescope was ranked as the fifth highest-impact of the world's optical telescopes. In 2001–2003, it was considered the most scientifically productive 4 metre-class optical telescope in the world based on scientific publications using data from the telescope.[1][2]

The telescope was commissioned in 1974 with a view to allowing high quality observations of the sky from the southern hemisphere (at the time, most major telescopes were located in the northern hemisphere). The AAT was credited with stimulating a resurgence in British optical astronomy.[3] It was constructed by Australia and the United Kingdom but has been entirely funded by Australia since 2010.[4] Observing time is available to astronomers worldwide.

The AAT was one of the last large telescopes built with an equatorial mount. More recent large telescopes have instead adopted the more compact and mechanically stable altazimuth mount. The AAT was, however, one of the very first telescopes to be fully computer-controlled, and set new standards for pointing and tracking accuracy.


A Joint Policy Committee started work on construction planning in August 1967. It took until September 1969 for plans to be finalised.[5] The agreement initially committed the specification to a telescope design based on the Kitt Peak telescope until its deficiencies were known. Both the horseshoe mount and the gearing system needed improvements.[6] Although the revised gear system was considerably more expensive it was significantly more accurate, lending itself well to unforeseen applications.[6]

The mirror was made by Owens-Illinois in Toledo, Ohio. It was then transported to Newcastle, England where Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Co took two years to grind and polish the mirror's surface.[6] Mitsubishi Electric built the mount which was constructed by August 1973. First light occurred on 27 April 1974. The telescope was officially opened by Prince Charles on 16 October 1974.[6]


The dome structure is 118 feet (36 m) high.

The telescope is housed within a seven-story, circular, concrete building. It was designed to withstand the high winds prevailing at that location. The slit is narrow. The dome is required to move with the telescope to avoid obstruction.[6]


The AAT is equipped with a number of instruments, including :

HERMES will be commissioned in 2013. It is a new spectrograph to be used with the 2dF fibre positioner.[7] HERMES will be used for the ‘Galactic Archaeology‘ (GA) Survey, which aims to reconstruct the history of our galaxy's formation from precise multi-element (~25) abundances of 1  million stars derived from HERMES spectra.

Contemporaries on commissioning[edit]

The AAT was built just a little smaller and built later than the Mayall 4m, but the AAT views the southern sky.

# Name /
Image Aperture Altitude First
Special advocate
1 Hale Telescope
Palomar Obs.
P200 Dome Open.jpg 200 inch
508 cm
1713 m
(5620 ft)
1949 Edwin Hubble
2 Mayall Telescope
Kitt Peak National Obs.
Kittpeakteliscope.JPG 158 inch
401 cm
2120 m
(6955 ft)
1973 Nicholas U. Mayall
3 Anglo-Australian Telescope
Siding Spring Obs.
Anglo-Australian Telescope dome.JPG 153 inch
389 cm
1134 m
(3720 ft)
1974 Prince Charles
4 Shane Telescope
Lick Observatory
Shane dome.JPG 120 inch
305 cm
1283 m
(4209 ft)
1959 C. Donald Shane

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fred Watson (6 January 2009). "Across the universe". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Tammy Plonter (11 September 2008). "Australian Telescope Leads the World In Astronomy Research". Universe Today. 
  3. ^ Home, R. W.; Roderick Weir Home (1990). Australian Science in the Making. Cambridge University Press. p. 364. ISBN 0521396409. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Nick Lomb (June 15, 2010). "Australia's largest optical telescope to become part of the Australian Astronomical Observatory on 1 July 2010 and to celebrate its 36th birthday". Sydney Observatory. 
  5. ^ Gregory, Jane (2005). Fred Hoyle's Universe. Oxford University Press. p. 225. ISBN 0191578460. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Haynes, Raymond (1996). Explorers of the Southern Sky: A History of Australian Astronomy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 382–394. ISBN 0521365759. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "HERMES project AAT". Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 

External links[edit]