Australia's premier optical and infrared space observatory in the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran was damaged by a major bushfire passing through the area on Sunday, according to observatory officials.
Robert McNaught, an astronomer at Siding Spring Observatory (SSO), provided an update on conditions at the facility through a Yahoo Groups message board for asteroid and comet researchers.
“Just a note to let folks know that I and all the other staff at Siding Spring Observatory are safe and well, following the major bushfire that went through it this afternoon,” McNaught said in his message. “I was unaware of the threat and only became aware when I heard helicopters flying over my house on Timor Road, some 10 kilometers from the observatory. We are aware of damage to the observatory. Apparently the Visitor's Center has been damaged (some reports say lost) and other buildings. I have no news about telescopes.”
SSO is a working research facility and as such it has no public stargazing facilities. The observatory is closed to the general public from 4 p.m. each day. There are, however, a range of activities for visitors to the observatory, including the visitor center with informative and educational displays about telescopes and astronomy.
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