A window on the heavens
How many of us have gazed up at the night sky and dreamed? If only you could see the rings of Saturn and the storms on Jupiter. Did you know that you can get a closer look at the celestial bodies right here in the City of Tea Tree Gully? On page 9 of the edition dated 23 August 1989, the Leader Messenger reported on the upcoming opening of a local observatory with a powerful telescope. The observatory had been constructed at the Heights School campus on Brunel Drive, Modbury Heights.
The Heights Observatory is a joint facility operated by The Heights School and the Astronomical Society of South Australia. It was established with the aims of providing students with practical experience in astronomy and also to promote astronomy to the general public (http://www.adelaideobservatory.org/history.html).
An observatory had been built on the grounds of The Norwood Boys Technical School (now Marryatville High School) which was offically opened in 1964, but by the 1980s the building in which it was housed had started to deteriorate. (http://www.marryatvillehs.sa.edu.au/_r24/media/system/attrib/file/14/MARRYATVILLE_History_new%20format.pdf
Parents and students at the Heights were keen to provide a location for a new observatory, raising funds for the telescope’s relocation. Science teacher Emanuel Papaelia, who is pictured in the Messenger article, was instrumental in getting the traditional domed observatory built on the school grounds. In recognition of the great amount of work that Papaelia put into the project, the observatory was named after him.
The Papaelia domed observatory was mainly built by the parents of students. As stated in the newspaper article, local businesses and industry organisations donated materials and assisted with its construction.
Since the time of this article’s publication, there have been upgrades to the observatory. In 1996/1997 another building with a roll off roof was constructed near the dome to accomodate a second telescope and a classroom for students. The ‘Ingham Family Rooms’ were named in honour of the dedication contribution by members of the Ingham family.
Once a month you can attend a public viewing night run by the Astronomical Society of South Australia at the Heights Observatory, for a reasonable entrance fee. Knowledgeable, dedicated current and former students from The Heights School’s Star Group also conduct the education and viewing sessions.
For those who are technically minded and know their telescopes, the Papaelia Observatory houses a 14-inch f/10 Meade LX200 GPS ACF Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. The Ingham Family Room observatory contains a scientific quality 12.5inch Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain telescope on a Losmandy HGM 200 mount. You can also experience using portable telescopes as well as a selection of other astronomical equipment on the viewing nights.
The next Heights Public Viewing Night will be held on Friday 18 May, providing the weather is good. Bookings are essential.
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