In 1862, the Melbourne Observatory was
founded as a scientific research institution
for the capital
colony of Victoria. The
government chose a hill beside the Royal
Botanical Gardens as the
observatory’s site. The
Victorian government then tasked the
observatory to maintain an accurate
time reference through the
observation of stars and other heavenly
bodies. In order to do this, the observatory
employed a transit telescope and general
After its founding, the observatory was
provided with a 48-inch telescope, which was
referred to as
the “Great Melbourne
Telescope”. For some time, it was the
world’s biggest fully steerable telescope.
In 1874, the Melbourne Observatory
participated in the worldwide endeavor to
observe and study the Transit of Venus in
order to extrapolate the distance between
the sun and the earth more accurately.
During the 1880s, the observatory again took
part in another project. It was the “Carte
du Ciel” project which attempted to map the
heavens through photography, which was then
a novel form of technology.
In 1901, the observatory was handed over by
the Commonwealth government. It also became
more and more difficult to make accurate
astronomical observations as the light
pollution from Melbourne began to increase.
In 1945, the observatory was shut down. All
of its contents, save for the 8-inch
refracting telescope by Troughton and Simms,
and the 4-inch Photoheliograph by Dallmeyer,
have been sold or transferred elsewhere.