In 1948, the Auckland Astronomical Society began fundraising for a public observatory in Auckland. By 1956 they had significant funds, including a substantial bequest from Mrs Edith Winstone Blackwell for the purchase of a telescope for public use. The Society formed the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust Board to build on these initial funds and provide for the construction and management of a new observatory.
In 1960 One Tree Hill Borough Council provided a 21-year lease, which has been subsequently extended, for a site in One Tree Hill Domain which is where the Observatory and Planetarium operates from today. In March 1967 the Observatory opened without a Planetarium, as at this stage the Auckland Museum was operating a Planetarium which had been donated by the Farmers Trading Company in 1958.
The Planetarium at the Museum closed in 1989, allowing the Observatory the opportunity to build a replacement Planetarium. Fundraising was undertaken with a clear vision to provide the country with the best facility possible.
Nearly $3 million was raised for the project, with major funding coming from the Lotteries Commission, the ASB Community Trust and a loan from Auckland City Council; many donations were also received from the public of Auckland. The new planetarium and associated facilities opened in February 1997 and remains the largest and most advanced in New Zealand.
The Zeiss star projector and panorama slide projectors were replaced in 2008 with a fully digitised system from E&S. The major fundraising effort also included upgrades and refurbishement of the seating and projection screen. Stardome now provides the Auckland region and New Zealand with leading-edge planetarium technology coupled with expert personalised assistance from daytime and night-time educators and presenters. The new foyer displays and exhibits project was completed in September 2010, together with a major system software upgrade.
Our mission is to teach and promote the science of astronomy and the Stardome is able to offer visitors the experience of learning together with entertainment in a planetarium environment. Visitors are also able to view the night sky through smaller telescopes with help from volunteers. The Stardome experience takes a learning, simulated environment and turns it into reality. This is a unique combination, and Auckland is one of the few cities worldwide that are able to offer both methods in one facility.
Edith Winstone Blackwell Zeiss Telescope
Manufactured by Carl Zeiss of Jena, East Germany, the Edith Winstone Blackwell Telescope was installed at Auckland Observatory in early 1967, and is one of about 20 such telescopes built.
Telescope Type: Cassegrain
Diameter of Primary Mirror: 0.5m
Effective Focal Length: 6.65m (focal ratio F13.3)
The very delicate reflective coating is aluminium deposited as a vapour in a vacuum chamber. It is only a few atoms thick, but when fresh it reflects about 92% of incident light. The mount stands on a massive concrete pier beneath the floor that has three legs that go a further 6m down to solid rock (volcanic lava). The telescope tube weighs about 500kg; thankfully, so does the counterweight. The total weight of the telescope and mounting from the top of the concrete pier is 2,300kg.
If you would like the chance to view through the Edith Winstone Blackwell Zeiss Telescope, it is available for an additional fee on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings after select evening shows. More Information