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Anglo-Australian Telescope papers, 1947-1983 (predominantly late 1960s - mid 1970s)

Reference Code: GBR/0180/RGO 47

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the papers in RGO 47 date from the mid 1960s-mid 1970s beginning with the papers of a UK Department of Scientific and Industrial Research funded feasibility study for the building project. The class is an artificial, and indeed unofficial, one consisting of records derived from a variety of sources. Primary depositors were the RGO staff who had been closely involved in planning or construction of the telescope. Members of the RGO staff were formally seconded to work on the project in Australia and others later spent time observing with the instrument. The Astronomer Royal or Director of the Royal Observatory was additionally always an AAT Board Member. The records then, are largely copies of material generated by the AAT Project Office, the AAT Board and its sub-committees and by predecessors such as the Southern Hemisphere Telescope Committee. Much of the material is associated with telescope engineer John D. Pope and many of the papers relate to technical problems of the project. There are also records relating to, for example, companies tendering for different sections of work on the telescope; to legal agreements and contracts; to budgets and finance; to staffing for observational research and maintenance; and to the appointment of a director.


  • Creation: 1947-1983 (predominantly late 1960s - mid 1970s)


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

The Anglo-Australian telescope built at Siding Spring Mountain near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia first became operational in 1974. Its purpose was to improve optical telescope observation from the southern hemisphere (regions of the sky are obscured from Northern observatories) and its building was, in part, prompted by advances in radio observation from the Parks and Mills Cross telescopes in Australia. It was built as a joint project between Australia and the United Kingdom governments with much input from Sir Richard Woolley as Astronomer Royal and the Australian National University as operators of existing astronomical observatory equipment at the Siding Spring Mountain site. The highly accurate 150-inch telescope was largely based on the design of an existing telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona, USA and cost £6,000,000 to build. It was one of the first fully computer controlled telescopes. A further description of the political and scientific back ground to the project may be obtained in hard copy from the RGO Archivist. Further information about the telescope can be found on the website of the Anglo-Australian Observatory:


25 archive box(es) (24 boxes + 1 uncatalogued) : paper/photograph

Language of Materials




The following system of arrangement was imposed on the material prior to cataloguing: 1-1256: Correspondence: all correspondence, most memoranda, and any short reports enclosed with a substantial covering letter.

1257-1437: Committee Papers: documents relating to meetings of committees or representatives on location. Includes agenda, pre-meeting briefings, and minutes.

1438-1982: Technical Data: all papers on any technical aspect of the project, except progress reports. Includes graphs, some memoranda, printed data sheets from firms, reports from individuals or groups and tenders. Also calculations, etc.

1983-2040: Progress Reports: all progress reports directly linked with project work from any firm. Does not include annual or monthly reports from establishments such as the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

2041-2118: Drawings: all drawings unless inseparable from a report, etc. Includes photocopies as well as originals, but not graphs, bar charts, tables, etc. Also, not rough sketches.

2119-2222: Administration: any non-technical documents relating to staffing, finance, etc. Includes reports on tenders, though not the tenders themselves and any records of administrative decisions, etc.

2223-2260: Publications: any published work, such as extracts from technical journals, unless more appropriate under ''Technical Data''. Includes newspaper cuttings, but not sales literature from firms.

2261-2278: Photographs: all photographs unless inseparable from reports, etc.

The final series (2279-2307) is composed of later additions to the collection. The files within this part have not been rearranged.

Other Finding Aids

A hard copy handlist to RGO 47/1-2299 is kept in the Manuscripts Reading Room. It includes indexes entitled an 'A to Z of AAT Correspondents' and an 'A-Z of Firms and Other Bodies'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These records were accumulated by RGO staff supporting or seconded to the AAT project. It is thought they were deposited with the Royal Greenwich Observatory in the early 1980s. RGO 47/2279-2307 and 1072b are from additional deposits made in the mid 1980s.

Related Materials

References to the AAT/Southern Hemisphere Telescope Project are also to be found in the papers of Sir Richard Woolley (RGO 10, E M Burbidge (RGO 11), A Hunter (RGO 12) and R O Redman (RGO 37).


The online catalogue was largely compiled from an existing list in June 2009 by Zoe A. Rees, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.


Anglo-Australian Telescope Project Office

Finding aid date

2009-01-12 16:05:57+00:00

Includes index.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom