In 1887 astronomers from around the world embarked on a massive new enterprise; known as the Carte du Ciel (Mapping the Stars) project it involved photographing and measuring the stars in both hemispheres. Australia was actively involved in this international project with observatories in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth being keen participants. Each observatory was allocated a zone of the sky and was expected to record it using instruments of a standard pattern.
British institutions preferred to patronize Howard Grubb of Dublin who took on the work of constructing seven of the astrographs needed. This accession contains the original Grubb telescope ordered by Melbourne Observatory in 1888 and which arrived in Melbourne in 1890.
Between 1890 and 1948 the instrument was used to take thousands of photographic plates for the project. Combined with those taken using Sydney Observatory's camera, these produced a comprehensive map of much of the southern stars.
The Melbourne Observatory was closed as a state institution in 1944 and the telescope was subsequently moved to Sydney where it was housed in a purpose-built dome. This was made between 1949 and 1952 by volunteers, including staff from the local engineering firm of Morts Dock Engineering Company. This was the same firm that made the mounts and barrel of Sydney Observatory's astrographic camera between 1888 and 1890.
In 1955 a lens by Taylor, Taylor and Hobson was added to the telescope and this new lens allowed photographs of a greater field of diameter to be taken. The telescope was subsequently lent to Macquarie University along with the original Grubb lens and another lens used in the Sydney astrographic camera to take many of the Sydney Observatory's original photographic plates. These three lenses are included in this accession.
The telescope and its accessories were used in the international Carte du Ciel (Mapping the Stars) project from the late 1800s right through until the 1960s and are linked to the many surviving photographic plates taken over this period. This prolonged activity on one of the most significnat astronomical projects undertaken in Australia means it has played a significant role in the development of astronomy and the sciences in Australia.
The instrument and lenses made by Sir Howard Grubb are also of importance as the company was one of the best known instrument makers of the late nineteenth century. The fact that this particular astrograph is one of only seven made by Grubb for the Mapping the Stars project adds to its international significance.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, Total Asset Management project, December 2008
Russell, H. C., Description of the Star Camera at The Sydney Observatory, Alfred James Kent, Government Printer, 1923, p.4
King, H., C., The History of the Telescope, Dover Publications, New York, 1955, p.300
Glass, I. S., Victorian Telescope Makers; the Lives and Letters of Thomas and Howard Grubb, Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol and Philadelphia, 1997