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Stars align for observatory reopening

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Apr 2024, 3:02pm

Stars align for observatory reopening

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Apr 2024, 3:02pm

In May last year the stars were not in alignment for Auckland’s Stardome Observatory and Planetarium as copper was stripped and stolen causing it extensive damage.

“We were undergoing re-roofing of the building (at the time),” said chief executive Victoria Travers. “We were absolutely heartbroken that thieves came and stole the copper off the dome of this telescope.”

Thieves had stripped copper from the building in May 2023
Thieves had stripped copper from the building in May 2023

The telescope is a Zeiss instrument manufactured in Jena, then-East Germany, installed in 1967 and the copper was on the roof of the dome that slides open to the star-filled sky.

“When this was installed, it was the height of the Cold War and Jena is in the former East Germany,” Travers said. “It was quite incredible that it was brought here intact including the wood of the chamber itself and the copper also came from Germany as well.”

It was a bequest from Edith Winstone Blackwell, MBE, (whose initials are part of the full name – the EWB Zeiss Telescope) who was keen for Aucklanders to be able to view the wonders of the cosmos, Travers said.

She says over a million people have pressed their eye to the viewfinder of the telescope that has contributed to major research projects including the discovery of the atmosphere of Pluto in 1988.

The theft turned the lights out on its operation.

Additional damage to the roof has cost an astronomical amount to fix
Additional damage to the roof has cost an astronomical amount to fix

Travers estimates the thieves may have realised about $2000 from the sale of the copper that was thin and worn.

“The damage that was caused and the cost to replace it was a whopping $680,000,” she said. “It was pretty shocking finding out how much it was.”

But thanks to Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and some insurance money, the roof has been fixed up and the telescope has reopened with 24/7 security and surveillance on site.

The restored roof is absolutely magnificent says Victoria Travers. Photo / Michael Craig
The restored roof is absolutely magnificent says Victoria Travers. Photo / Michael Craig

“We were really lucky in that there is a particular artisan roofer who happened to be in the country at the time, so he worked on this new roof,” Travers said. “It’s beautifully crafted and looks absolutely magnificent.

“And it is now so firmly tacked down that we know it’s going to be here for a really, really long time.”

Stargazers can now look heavenward with thanks.

Public access to the Zeiss telescope is available through ticketed sessions on Friday and Saturday nights, weather permitting, bookings essential, and Stardome is offering an extensive schools holiday programme, see www.stardome.org.nz or call 09 624 1246.

Victoria Travers, Chief Executive Stardome Observatory and Planetarium with the WEB Zeiss telescope. Photo / Michael Craig
Victoria Travers, Chief Executive Stardome Observatory and Planetarium with the WEB Zeiss telescope. Photo / Michael Craig

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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