The pathway into Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens is a walk through Victoria’s scientific history. Unlike most modern observatories, the Melbourne Observatory is composed of a number of different buildings including the main observatory structure, the magnet house, the photoheliograph house, the astrograph house, and more.
Its existence is a product of the decision to merge two other institutions: Williamstown Observatory and Flagstaff Observatory. Initial construction on the Melbourne Observatory began in 1861 and was completed in 1863, though expansions continued through 1902.
One of the most notable buildings on-site is the astronomer’s residence, which housed famous astronomer Robert Ellery and his team of scientists, who carried out experiments in several subjects over the course of close to 40 years. They mapped star positions in the southern hemisphere, gathered meteorological observations, and studied the tides, among other work.
Although Melbourne Observatory was decommissioned in 1945, the telescopes and most other equipment are still fully operational. It is used to this day for sky observing by the Astronomical Society of Victoria, and hosts visiting star buffs from around the world.
Know Before You Go
The observatory open for tours, but not for general visits. Tours are conducted on Monday nights and can be scheduled online. Be aware that the tours are not suitable for wheelchairs due to narrow entrances and staircases.