Jan. 13th, 2013

krazykitkat: (tears (Ever After))
Reposting what my sis has posted (she used one of the telescopes for her honours).

It's 5 days until the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, in which lives and houses were lost, and Mt Stromlo, one of two Australian optical research facilities was destroyed.

Today, a bushfire swept through Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran in NSW, the other of the two Australian optical research facilities.

They'd evacuated all staff. The site has around 10 operating telescopes, plus a visitor's centre, sleeping quarters, kitchen, etc. It's got the largest telescope in Australia, the AAT, which has innovative technology to do surveys.

Since the 2003 bushfires, they changed things to try to help the observatory survive this sort of event. That included special paint on the domes.

It's looking a bit hopeful. 3 of the telescopes are still alive by the looks of it - I'm presuming they mean 'alive' by the fact that they're getting temperature, etc. info from them. The temperature spiked to over 100 C (212 F) outside and the reading inside the dome at that time was just under 50 C (122 F). It's all the smaller things around, plus the other buildings that I'm worried about. And all the telescopes that they don't know whether they're alive yet. From what one of the people involved is saying, it's sounding like possibly the clearing around the area forced the fire around the mountain, that it didn't actually go through the site. I'm crossing my fingers that this is right... Even then, the high temperatures may have been enough to do a reasonable amount of damage, as well as embers.

Feeling a bit teary. Seeing the devastation up at Stromlo was horrible. Let alone this.

ETA: Rural Fire Service has said that there's significant damage. From allsky cameras, the domes they can see are still standing and they can contact some telescopes. Also, Mopra, a mm telescope (antenna) is just down the road. It seems to be still standing, but not contactable (i.e. offline). The antenna structure may survive a bushfire, but electronics/cabling, and the support building likely wouldn't.

2nd post:

This does not look good for Mopra. The antenna itself will have survived (although I'm not certain at what temperature you get warping) but likely cabling etc. will be gone and it does not look good for the support building. I'm hoping I'm wrong... Do not watch if bushfires are triggery for you.

video )

They've confirmed from the webcams (which too many people are visiting - making it difficult for the firefighters) that buildings (not domes i.e. the telescopes themselves) are definitely on fire at Siding Spring. Some of the staff are fearing for several of the telescopes, particularly one that is a replacement for a telescope that burnt down at Mt Stromlo ten years ago.

It's going to be an incredibly horrible night for a lot of people...

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