Many of us have, at one stage or another, imagined having our own observatory, high up in a mountain range, under crisp, clean, dark skies, like the professionals do and what if all this was within a comfortable drive of home
and your place of work too? I certainly know I have, I Just never considered it more than a cathartic dream, something I might think about while drifting off to sleep at night...WELL!...
WELCOME TO EAGLEVIEW OBSERVATORY
The above photo is looking east across the Monaro plain towards the beautiful Tinderry Mountain Range, a relatively compact and isolated row of magnificent and picturesque granite peaks in NSW. The Tinderry mountains are located
80km inland from Australia's South Coast and 50km SSE of the capital city, Canberra. Rising more than 900m above the small town of Michelago below, the highest peak, Tinderry Peak, has the 69th greatest prominence (height above
surroundings) out of all 12,558 peaks in the entire 3500km of Australia's Great Dividing Range. Eagleview Observatory sits high on top of Mount Eagle, at the southern end of the range and rises 750m above the surrounding plain and
1450m above sea level, higher than anywhere in Western Australia and South Australia, only 100m lower than the highest point in the NT and only around 150m lower than the highest peaks in both Tassie and QLD, it is amongst the highest
free hold land in NSW and has one of the highest private residences in Australia. The two highest peaks in the Tinderry range are marked on the photo above and heights above sea level (ASL) were obtained from official published figures and
by carefully inspecting high resolution NSW Government topographical maps.
In the photos of the range above and below, the elevated Mt Eagle mesa, is located a bit further East, so it appears lower than it otherwise would in comparison, if all peaks were viewed from the same distance.
A little over 1 hours drive from the capital city of Canberra (pop. 450 000) and with no other major towns or cities nearby, the skies above Eagleview Observatory are expansive and dark. At Bortle class 1, with a measured SQM of 22.18, it is
darker than most of the professional observatories on the mainland USA, including Mt Palomar in California and Kit Peak and Mt Graham in Arizona, and its also darker than Roque de los Muchachos Observatory La Palma and even Cerro Tololo in Chile.
The overall height of the Eagleview mesa, is beneficial for seeing conditions but the fact that the topography rises quite abruptly up from and so high above, the surrounding plain (~750m), helps too. Mountain fog occurs at times but reports
from long time locals suggest it is an occasional occurrence in summer but winter nights are reportedly quite regularly clear of fog.
So far during winter, clear skies are abundant and every one of the many nights spent on site already, observing and site testing, has delivered spectacular, clear, dark, transparent and steady skies, every time! Stars down to Mag 7 can be
spotted with the naked eye, including two stars visible "inside" the Coal Sack on the best nights. Globular clusters M22 and M4 are both easily visible naked eye as are the Beehive Custer, M31 and M33 to the North. Views through my 12"
Dobsonian telescope reveal galaxies beyond Mag 15 and every viewing session has shown good to excellent seeing conditions prevailing, providing excellent views of the planets with magnification of 750X useable on many nights. Transparency and
contrast are excellent too, the air is so clear, stars near mag 6 are still visible just 5deg above the horizon and the Milky Way is clearly visible even when it is stretched out hugging the southern horizon from Orion right around to Sagittarius!
Careful measurements, using a Unihedron SQM-L dark sky meter, show zenith readings average an incredible 22.18 Mag/square arc sec, which makes it one of the darkest sites on the planet, with a truly spectacular sky, full of stars!
The drive up from the base of the mountains is an easy but typical windy one, via a good quality dirt road with some tarred sections. The unique feeling of anticipation, only really felt by those travelling up to an observatory on top
of a mountain, much like Hubble, Humason and Shapely likely felt on their way up to the 1740m summit of the Mt Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel mountains, California, a century ago, is utterly palpable, humbling and exciting,
all at the same time! At the top of the road, as high as you can go by vehicle and on top of Mt Eagle, Eagleview is a veritable astronomers dream 100 acre property, with no significant artificial lighting visible anywhere.
Most of the Tinderry range is protected as a 14,000 hectare nature reserve, never to be developed and at its southern end, the few existing properties and residences are sparse and on large acreages (~100acres). The local council
area takes in the whole mountain range precinct and (in 2016) the Tinderry locality had a population of just 66 people, so it should remain very dark, at least for the foreseeable future - Hellelulia!
With several peaks above 1500m, the Tinderry Range is classed as sub-Alpine, so considering Eagleview, at ~ 1450m, is at a similar elevation to the Thredbo ski fields, up in Australia's Snowy Mountains, there are some healthy dustings of snow in
winter. Generally the amount of snow is not enough and the terrain largely unsuitable, to make skiing practical and I'm actually happy about this, as regular heavy snow brings with it, its own complications, like impaired road travel and snow
loading considerations etc. I'm definitely not too keen on needing chains regularly if I can avoid them and so far, having an all-wheel drive SUV, with off road tyres, has proved sufficient to navigate the snowy, dirt roads on most occassions.
Scroll down to see pictures of Eagleview - Sometimes...juuuust sometimes, dreams can really come true! heck...I can't stop pinching myself :-)
The Highest Observatory in Australia!
With its highest point being 1450m ASL (4757ft), Eagleview has the highest residence in the Tinderry range and in fact one of the highest private residences in all of Australia! At more than 300m (1000ft) higher than the Australian Astronomical
Observatory (AAO), near Coonabarabran NSW and some 115m higher than the previous title holder, the Orroral Geodetic satellite optical ranging observatory, which is at appox 1335m ASL, Eagleview will soon host the highest astronomical
observatory in Australia! Scroll down to see images of the Orroral telescope facility
High up in the mountains, right in a dark sky sweet spot.
Looking South East, from the Brindabella Mountains, towards the magnificent peaks of the Tinderry Range and Eagleview.
Looking up towards Mt Eagle and Eagleview, from the western side of the Monaro HWY below
Eagleview from the south - big, open and remote dark skies, at 1450m! A & B mark the potential locations of the future Eagleview Observatory, see aerial photos below.
The nearest major road, is located 12km to the west and over 750m below, so peace and quiet is a hallmark, interrupted only by native bird life and the wind in the trees.
While it is not a totally accurate comparison, in terms of the relative city light dome brightness, 55km from Canberra is roughly
equivalent to being 200km from Sydney or Melbourne, or nearly 100km from Adelaide.
Plan of property with elevation contours, showing the highest point and possible locations (A & B) for the planned observatory
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see an incredible 360deg panorama taken from location B.
Welcome to Eagleview, an astronomical Paradise!...one very happy chappy astronomer :-)
Eagleview from the North - reveals a very private and astronomically fortuitous location, free of any nearby neighbourhood lighting.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see an incredible 360deg panorama taken from Mt Eagle.
Location B on Mt Eagle, showing all nearby potential sources of light pollution, along with the nearest towns and city, none are in direct line of sight.
Eagleview property, 100 acres, high up in the Tinderry Mountains, showing possible locations (A & B) for the planned observatory
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see an incredible 360deg panorama taken from location B
Plenty of space for a star party with friends, high up in the mountains, under clean and dark skies! :-)
Likely location for Eagleview Observatory and observing area. This location will allow the surrounding topography
and trees, to provide some protection for the observatory from Northerly, Easterly & Westerly prevailing winds.
Eagleview house (administration, refectory, sleeping accommodation..and bar) is off grid, with full phone coverage and high speed internet and is the highest residence in the Tinderry Mountains
and in fact, is one of the highest approved residences in Australia!
Snowing at Eagleview house
Several options exist for where to locate the future observatory on the property, the above photo was taken from the final chosen spot, looking south, visibility is over 80km, with Bortel 1 skies overhead!
Sweeping panoramic views to the south, that seem to go for ever...a beverage on the deck anyone? Nothing within bloody Coowee to ever bother us with bright lights (or noise!), Halleluiah!! Under the dark
skies at night, the distant twinkling lights of Cooma (pop. ~7000), some 56km away, just under The Three Brothers, compliment the Magellanic Clouds circling above and are a pretty site from the deck.
The air is so clean and transparent that incredibly, from 1435m, looking West, you can see out to whopping 94km, to the 1935m Cup and Saucer Hill!
How's this for a loungeroom view...! On a clear moonless night, above the handful of distant twinkling lights of Cooma near the horizon, some 55km away, a myriad of stars, along with the LMC & SMC, can easily be
seen through the big window, all while lounging in disbelief on the sofa, with a beer in hand...utterly magical!
Window to the Universe...an absolutely incredible vista by night is had from the comfort of the loungeroom!
Looking south from the slopes of nearby 1495m Gulwan Peak, back towards the 100 elevated acres and big open skies, on top of Mt Eagle.
Sunset from location B on top of Mt Eagle at 1435m ASL
Observing at 1445m AMSL, at the site of the planned future observatory..yep! that will be the incredible view from the observatory! Conditions are very dark, with excellent transparency,
contrast and seeing! A 12 inch F5 goto Dobsonian provides high contrast views of faint deep sky objects and conditions allow for detailed views of Jupiter and Saturn upto 750X magnification!
Southerly view, after snow, from the proposed observing area and location of the future elevated deck with 3M Scopedome.
Eagleview is a long way from and well above, any significant artificial lights
Looking South, from the observing area and future observatory, we see the lights of the small NSW town of Cooma (pop.7000) twinkling on the horizon, 56km away and 650m below and displays no noticeable light dome,
plus, a single lonely nearby neighbours light, 3km away and 220m below, that's no brighter than the star Canopus, visible in the sky above and to the right...and that's it!
Milky Way rising with green airglow - Excellent dark skies, as predicted by the World dark sky maps
but actual SQM readings taken on site, show the darkness is even better than predicted - see below!
Unihedron Sky Quality Meter (SQM-L) reading, this was the average of 6 readings of zenith sky brightness at 1am on 7 Sept 2021 and confirms Eagleview
is a Bortle Class 1 observing site, making it one of the darkest places to observe our night sky anywhere in the World - very cool! :-)
Tinderry Mountains in winter
Snow at Eagleview - June 2021
At nearly 1500m above sea level, this is a reasonably regular scene in winter at Eagleview, most dumps are light to moderate, as seen here and easily navigated with an AWD SUV
The Orroral Geodetic satellite optical ranging observatory is 400m above and overlooks the former site of the iconic Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
Orroral Valley Tracking station, in the Namadgi National Park, 43km SW of Canberra and once held the title of the highest observatory in Australia,
at ~ 1335m ASL (until 1998 when it was decommissioned)....and soon that title will go to Eagleview Observatory :-)
Tinderry Mountains and Eagleview, viewed from the Orroral Geodetic Observatory, 34km away, previously Australia's highest observatory at 1335m ASL
Always dreamed of having an observatory location that gets to be above the clouds sometimes! - taken from our neighbours place at 1350m ASL
New Weather Station installed
<--- Use your screen slider to pan across the whole 360 deg panorama --->
An astronomical paradise ON TOP OF THE WORLD! (Future observatory has been Photoshopped in)
On top of Mt Eagle in the Tinderry Mountains, this is a fantastic place to observe the night sky, a dark, wide open, natural planetarium like viewing area, up at nearly 5000ft ASL,
with unobstructed views in all directions...WOW! One of two likely locations on the property, for the future Eagleview Observatory. Makes for many possibilities, remote telescope
hosting, a mountain retreat B&B, a super cool HipCamp location, amazing star parties...or, just a private retreat, or all five! There are many exciting options...