Summary

Great Melbourne Telescope at Melbourne Observatory, circa 1875.

The 48 inch equatorial reflecting telescope was constructed by Thomas Grubb, Dublin and installed at the observatory in 1868. The telescope was used at Melbourne Observatory from 1869 to 1892 to observe changes in the nebulae of the southern hemisphere. Thereafter it was used only intermittently.

The person depicted is most likely Joseph Turner, observer with the Great Melbourne Telescope from 1873 to 1883.

Photograph in a photograph album used at Melbourne Observatory, late 19th century. The photographs show the main Melbourne Observatory building, Great Melbourne Telescope, 8 inch transit telescope, recording equipment, observatories in other cities and countries, astronomers, astronomical photographs of sun and stars.

Description of Content

Great Melbourne Telescope at Melbourne Observatory, 1870s-1880s. The 48 inch equatorial reflecting telescope was constructed by Thomas Grubb, Dublin and installed at the observatory in 1869.

Significance

Statement of Signficiance:

The Great Melbourne Telescope was built by Thomas Grubb of Dublin in 1868 and erected at Melbourne Observatory in 1869. It was a reflector telescope with a speculum (metal) mirror of 48 inches diameter; at the time it was the second largest telescope in the world and the largest in the southern hemisphere.

The design and construction was overseen by a committee of eminent British astronomers, who developed the telescope to study the nebulae of the southern hemisphere skies. It was the first major telescope built by Thomas Grubb, and revolutionary in many aspects of its design. The firm went on to make many of the major telescopes around the world in the second half of the 19th century.

The telescope never lived up to expectations, due to difficulties with constant tarnishing of its mirrors, flexure in the mirrors, and its relative unsuitability for the new astronomical techniques of photography and spectroscopy.

The telescope was operated at Melbourne Observatory by a dedicated Great Melbourne Telescope Observer: Albert Le Seuer (1869-70), E F MacGeorge (1870-72), Joseph Turner (1873-83), Pietro Baracchi (1883-92); thereafter it was used only intermittently.

When Melbourne Observatory closed in 1944, the telescope was sold to the Commonwealth Observatory at Mount Stromlo, Canberra.

More Information