THE Melbourne-based Astronomical Society of Victoria (ASV) unveiled its new specially built 40-inch Hubble Optics Telescope at a First Light Ceremony on Saturday March 2 at its dark sky site near Heathcote. It is the biggest telescope in Victoria.
The ASV, which has more than 1300 members, is the leading such organisation in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest in the world, and has been developing this monstrous new telescope for the past five years.
“This new telescope will give us views of the universe that are simply breathtaking,” ASV president Perry Vlahos said.
‘‘We were honoured to have Australian chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel to officially cut the ribbon.”
The ASV is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organisation, which has received no funding from any government resources and raises funds from subscriptions, donations and its own revenue raising activities.
“The new telescope, its observatory, the new accommodation block to go with it, and the new radio telescope have cost in the vicinity of $750,000 for this total project and all self-funded,” vice president Chris Rudge said.
It is hoped the telescope will be available in due course to the public, schools and universities, as no other telescope in the 1m class is as easy to use for viewing the stars and galaxies. In fact, any ASV member will be able to use it once they’ve been trained in a short course of handling the instrument.
“Telescopes as large as this are not usually fitted with eyepieces for an observer’s eye to visually see the wonders of the heavens,” Mr Vlahos said.
‘‘But we wanted to share the universe with anyone having an interest in seeing it for themselves.”
The First Light Ceremony took place at the Leon Mow Dark Sky Site near Heathcote.
Dr Finkel declared the telescope open. He was joined by former state premier Ted Baillieu, local MP Steph Ryan and Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke, along with a number of scientists and other dignitaries to help celebrate the occasion, which was followed by viewing through the instrument at nightfall.