Big local impact from bushfire at Siding Springs Observatory

Gungahlin Al 16 January 2013

Although it’s a long way from Canberra, the bushfire that tore through the Warrumbungle Mountains, Coonabarabran, on Sunday night is having a significant effect on a lot of Canberra people. Siding Springs became Australia’s premier visual astronomy observatory site after the decision not to rebuild Mount Stromlo Observatory, destroyed in the January 2003 bushfire.


It appears all the observatories themselves survived this fire, following major works to prevent a repeat of Mount Stromlo—works that have evidently paid off. Good news, given the troubles resolving the insurance at the Canberra fires, and that ANU alone has some $80m worth of assets at Siding Springs (CSIRO and others have assets there too). During the fire, the external temperature sensors on the observatories peaked at an amazing 120 degrees (Celsius)—as high as the sensors went…

However, the visiting astronomers’ lodge was destroyed, as were several other buildings and 33 homes—some on the mountain and many along the road to Connabarabran owned by staff of SSO, including renowned comet and asteroid hunter Rob McNaught. Many of these astronomers who do work up there visit from ANU and CSIRO in Canberra.

burned out

It was interesting that during the height of the fire, all except one of the top trending Twitter topics in Canberra was related to the fire. Meanwhile the national trending topics just had ‘Coonabarabran’…


I kept a blog article during the evening and with subsequent updates, for anyone interested.

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