Legendary telescope being brought back to life in Takapō
Historical photo of the Brashear Telescope in situ
One of the world’s most famous Victorian telescopes will be restored and available for public viewing in Takapō (Lake Tekapo) after spending five decades in storage.
Once restored, the Brashear Telescope will be installed in an observatory dome in the new astronomy centre being built by the Earth & Sky Limited Partnership.
Dallas Poll, who is restoring the 124-year-old telescope, says, “To have an instrument of this calibre is an astounding privilege and it’s even more special that it will be in the heart of the world’s largest dark sky reserve.”
The Brashear Telescope was used in the late 1800s by Percival Lowell for his studies of Mars. It stands at a maximum of nine metres tall, has an 18-inch refracting lens, and is beautifully crafted of brass, iron, steel and wood.
In the 1960s the Brashear Telescope was gifted to the University of Canterbury by the University of Pennsylvania for installation at Mt John Observatory. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough funds to build a dome suitable to house the telescope so it was resigned to a life in storage.
In 2016, the University of Canterbury gifted the telescope to the Tomorrow’s Skies Charitable Trust to enable the long-held dream of restoration to be realised.
Graham Kennedy, of the Tomorrow’s Skies Charitable Trust, says, “Once restored, the Brashear will be the only Victorian telescope in a Gold Standard International Dark Sky Reserve. The importance of this project to astronomy is tremendous.”
The Trust is seeking support to restore and house the Brashear Telescope in a purpose-built observatory dome in the new astronomy centre.
“We’re inviting those with an interest in the Brashear and the astronomy community to share in the support of this project to ensure its success,” Mr Kennedy says.
The Trust’s initiative has the support of Zara Tindall, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II. She toured the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory with Earth & Sky in December 2017.
“I hope that restoring the Brashear will inspire a new generation to learn about astronomy and reconnect with the stars,” Mrs Tindall says.
When the astronomy centre opens in autumn 2019, the Brashear Telescope will be free for the public to view during the day and anyone who wishes to get a closer look can be taken on a guided tour by Earth & Sky.
The world-class astronomy centre will inspire and educate visitors about the southern night sky from both a science and Māori perspective.
The Earth & Sky Limited Partnership is a joint venture between Ngāi Tahu Tourism and partners Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa.