Monday, November 2, 2009

My Top Ten Favourite Private Observatories

This week I thought I would take you on a tour of some of the world’s most amazing private observatories.



When I was a little boy lying out in the backyard in a sleeping bag counting meteors and dreaming of being an Astronomer, I often pondered what it would be like to have my own observatory. We used to go on camping trips and a number of times travelled via Siding Springs in the beautiful Warrumbungle Ranges near Coonabarrabran in western New South Wales.

Most conversations with my parents and the school career guidance officer ended with the comments …….”you’re not good enough at Maths and there is only one or two astronomers in the country anyway and its not going to be you”. (This was the 70’s) The advice that I took was: “get a good job in electronics/telecommunications and then you’ll have money for your hobbies”.

Since that time I have often been bemused by the contrast between real astronomers dedicating themselves to a lifetime of study and research at great personal sacrifice versus the amateur astronomers who seem to have a limitless supply of disposable income to pour into their passion.

I think this is one of the reasons why the co-operation between amateur and professional astronomers has been so successful. Professionals sourcing research grants to secure scarce precious time on specialist instruments and self funded amateurs doing the grunt work (long hours waiting for something to happen) , follow-up observations and at times pre-work for critical missions.

Ice In Space the amateur astronomy online community even has a Spectroscopy group now, they are doing some wild stuff. I am going to do a separate blog post on this shortly.

So to the Observatories of our eccentric hobbyists, today’s selection is roll-on/ roll-off roof style of construction (I might do a separate post on Domes):

The Top Ten (My favourites) Private Observatories.

The most amazing thing about private observatories is the innovation, individual style and effort that goes into them, and the locations and beautiful settings in which they are located. Many amateurs have gone to great lengths to document the constructions and happily share their obvious skill, and even in some cases their designs and blueprints. So if you want an observatory with pneumatic chairs, pizza ovens, 7.1 surround sound, play swings or somewhere to also park your car – Take the Tour!!!!

Selection criteria: Location, design innovation, aspect, view during the day time.

1) Asian influence, superb design – Ptolemy’s Café Observatory


Ptolemy's Cafe Observatory


2) Size does matter – The Ultimate Private Observatory

For pure engineering skill and the audacity of it all, not to mention the electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic systems, oh yes …and the F5 Tornado proof structure with 7.1 Surround Sound system.




3) Duel Function Radio and Optical Observatory – Tennessee Skynet
Bill and Melinda Lord have created a unique operation leveraging both optical and radio astronomy, great to see couples sharing their interests.


4) Stunning design. Observatorio de la Bollonia


5) Duel Purpose – Dorset Astronomy’s Frome Valley Observatory


Frome Valley Observatory


6) L’Osservatore Ponte Di Legno
I love the planter boxes……No#1 in cuteness factor


7) Most Amusing Name – Cloudbait Observatory

Also some amazing projects!


8) His and Hers – Watzke Astronomy. John and Beth each have their own observatory keeping aperture envy within the family.



9) Close to home, ultimate functionality - Saaletal Observatorium


Saaletal Observatory


10) Of course the best observatory is – your own.

The AART – Australian Amateur Research Telescope



Finally a couple of additional noteworthy mentions:

Star Navigator Observatory – The only one with a wood fire Pizza Oven

South Tamworth Observatory (great Photo)

Pleasant Valley Observatory



Well that is quite a selection it was hard to narrow it down to 10 and I’m sure to have missed a few, feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below and complete the poll which is better: Roll-on/off or Dome.

NB: all photos served from their original websites

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