Melbourne Observatory, Royal Botanic Gardens

Architect: Melbourne Observatory opened in 1863 under the guiding hand of Robert Ellery (1827–1908).

City of Melbourne | C62

Building Description

Melbourne Observatory opened in 1863 under the guiding hand of Robert Ellery (1827–1908). It was Victoria’s centre for time setting, astronomical and geophysical studies, the initial survey of Victoria, weather data, forecasting, and weights and measures standards. The buildings were purpose-developed between 1861 and 1902, leading to their distinctive shapes and features. The telescope houses of the Melbourne Observatory are all brick construction. The domes are timber, originally covered with wooden slats and painted canvas, with galvanised iron sheet cladding fitted in the 1950s to provide better weather protection. The Photoheliograph and Astrograph domes are carried by iron wheels on iron tracks. The South Equatorial dome is a lantern roof rolling on iron cannonballs between iron races. All domes were originally moved by hand, but since 1957 the Astrograph dome has been powered by a second-hand washing machine motor. Currently, Melbourne Observatory houses the impressive Photoheliograph Telescope (1874), a telescopic camera for photographing the sun, which has captured four transits of Venus. Also on display are an original 8-inch refracting telescope by Troughton and Simms of London (1874) and a 12-inch Newtonian reflector telescope owned by the Astronomical Society of Victoria.

What's On

Tour the Melbourne Observatory buildings whilst learning about the historical, scientific, and astronomical significance of the site. Tours are led by expert guides from the Astronomical Society of Victoria.


Gate O: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne 3004, Melbourne VIC

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