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Australia's biggest telescope turns 35

Wed Oct 14 23:41:15 EST 2009
Wed Oct 14 12:41:15 UTC 2009
FED: Australia's biggest telescope turns 35

CANBERRA, Oct 14 AAP - Australia's largest telescope will celebrate its 35th year capturing infrared images and exploring the southern sky.

The 3.9 metre Anglo-Australian Telescope, built in 1974, remains one of the world's most productive despite its age and will mark its 35th anniversary on Friday.

Located at the Siding Spring Observatory, 25km west of the NSW town of Coonabarabran, it was once the largest telescope that either Australian or British scientists had access to and the first to be operated completely by computer.

In its time, the telescope has found 25 planets, helped investigate the cause of gamma-ray bursts and was the first telescope to take colour photographs of objects in the southern sky.

A sundial will be presented to Coonabarabran to mark the occasion and to thank its residents for playing a major part in controlling light pollution, thus allowing the telescope to do its work.

It was created to provide world-class optical and infrared observation facilities, and continues that task to this day, astronomer Fred Watson said.