Perth Observatory: What You Need To Know
There’s nothing more magical than gazing up into the vastness of the night sky – and doing it with an expert is even better. The Perth Observatory is less than an hour outside of the city, but you’ll feel like you’re travelling through the stars.
What is it?
WA’s oldest observatory, the Perth Observatory has played an integral role in how we’ve understood the cosmos over the past century. Officially opening in 1900, the Observatory was originally located on Mount Eliza (Kaarta Gar-up), within King’s Park, before moving in 1965 to its current location in Bickley. The official role of Western Australian Government Astronomer was initially established to keep Standard Time, which was marked daily by a cannon – up until this point, clocks could vary by a whopping 30 minutes. The move to Bickley was made in order to make room for new government buildings on Mount Eliza (only one of which was ever built: Dumas House), as well as to counteract increasing light pollution from the city – as of 2005, the current site is now listed on the State Heritage Register.
Over the years, various WA Government Astronomers and Directors of the Observatory have helped progress the institution’s standing within the international scientific community, through research programs and cooperation with other scientific bodies. This extensive work has included co-discovering Uranus’ ring system, publishing numerous revered Meridian Catalogues (which record the locations of stars), as well as recording data for NASA’s International Planetary Patrol Program, and later becoming one of the world’s foremost institutions for cometary astrometry.
Unfortunately, after a series of attempts by various state government administrations to close the Observatory, in 2013 all research programs were shut down, and it’s now used only for tours and educational purposes. Currently run by three part-time employees and a whopping 120 volunteers, the bright side is that we still have access to the amazing educational facilities and hopefully will for generations to come.
Where is it?
The Observatory is nestled amongst the leafy, picturesque surrounds of Bickley, 35km east of Perth on Whadjuk Noongar boodja.
What can you do there?
The Observatory’s role now is primarily one of eduction, which is delivered through over 200 events each year: including both day and night tours to the public, lectures and public talks, and other special events like Star Trek-themed tours, sundowners, or a five-week Astronomy 101 course. While you’re there, you can also visit the Observatory’s on-site museum, library, and Astroshop. The grounds also have a number of special fairy doors throughout for little ones to discover, and an accompanying book about the cheeky fairy’s adventures.
The Observatory is also home to Worl Wangkiny: a mural that celebrates the Indigenous history of astronomy, and 60,000 years of celestial storytelling.
How much does it cost?
The Observatory runs a wide range of tours, which are ticketed at a variety of price points – to help you gauge, a Night Sky Tour runs for 1.5-2 hours and Adult tickets will set you back $50.
If you’re a real astro-gazing enthusiast, you can become a Friend of Perth Observatory, which will get you entry into select tours and lectures, as well as some extra goodies to help you document the stars.
The Observatory is open Monday to Friday 10:00AM to 4:30PM, 1:00PM to 4:00PM on Sundays, and selected evenings for scheduled tours and special events.
All images via Perth Observatory