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. This means
Eagleview is 200m higher than anywhere in Western Australia, only 100m lower than the highest point in the NT, around 150m lower than the highest peaks in both Tassie and QLD and even 10m higher than South Australia's highest peak! Eagleview
is even more than 100m higher than the highest point in the United Kingdom! 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 1-2, with SQM readings hitting 22.00 on the
best nights, it is darker than most of the professional observatories on the mainland USA, including Mt Palomar in California, 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. Also there are no significant towns or cities within 200km in all directions from NW all the way around to NE, making for a particularly dark and vivid southern sky.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, with FWHM measurements (using MaximDL) regularly in the 1.4" - 2.0" range
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 on the best nights, average between 21.90 - 22.00 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 higher than the Thredbo Village, up in Australia's Snowy Mountains, there are certainly 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.
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 120m higher than the previous title holder, the Orroral Geodetic satellite optical ranging observatory, which is at appox 1330m ASL, as of June 2022 Eagleview now hosts the highest fully
operational, permanent astronomical observatory in Australia!
Scroll down to see pictures of Eagleview - Sometimes...juuuust sometimes, dreams can really come true! heck...I can't stop pinching myself :-)
More than a year after acquiring the property and a lot of planning and coordination, Eagleview Observatory is finally in place...a dream come true...
The equipment inside, high in the Tinderry mountains NSW, waiting for darkness....pristine air and skies, with visibility out to 83km!
A spectacular mountain range (Photo by: Stephen H. Roxburgh)
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 Tinderry RD below
Eagleview from the south - big, open and remote dark skies, at 1450m! A marks the locations of the 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 bird life and 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 location (A) of Eagleview Observatory
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see an incredible 360deg panorama taken from location B.
Determining the height of Eagleview Observatory using NSW government topographical reference portal, nearest (80m) official reference point is 1454m above mean sea level
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! :-)
House with observatory up the hill
House and outdoor room/visiting astronomers accommodation
Eagleview house (administration, refectory, sleeping accommodation..and bar) is off grid, with full phone coverage and high speed (up to 100mbps) internet and is the highest residence in the Tinderry Mountains
and in fact, it is one of the highest approved residences in the whole of Australia!
Snowing at Eagleview house
Hi from the Tinderry's
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.
Layers of hills out to 82km
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.
With a spectacular view of the tops of the Tinderry peaks to the North, this is the location for a planned future telescope/observatory
hosting facilty, a truly amazing and unique oportunity for some lucky Aussie astronomers - coming soon!
Observing at 1450m AMSL, at the site of the observatory now built Dec 2022: https://pbase.com/strongmanmike2002/eagleview_observatory
Conditions are very dark, with excellent transparency, contrast and seeing! An 18 inch F4.1 and 12 inch F5 goto Dobsonian's provide high
contrast views of faint deep sky objects and conditions regularly allow for detailed views of Jupiter and Saturn up to 900X magnification!
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
SQM measurements confirm the excellent dark sky conditions at Eagleview, averaging over 21.90 and hitting over 22.00 mag/squ arc sec on the very best nights!
Revealing a level of sky darkness, even greater than predicted, making Eagleview a true dark sky site and excellent for deep sky observing and imaging!
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
Always dreamed of having an observatory location that gets to be above the clouds sometimes! - taken from the middle of the property at 1435m ASL
<--- Use your screen slider to pan across the whole 360 deg panorama --->
An astronomical paradise ON TOP OF THE WORLD!
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! 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 to explore