Largest unmodified refractor telescope in use in NZ
Located in Cooks Gardens, the Ward Observatory houses a 24cm telescope, the largest unmodified refractor telescope still in use in New Zealand. See the stars and Saturn on a beautiful clear night.
Built in 1901 and administered by the Whanganui Astronomical Society, it is named after Joseph Ward (1862–1927), the society’s first president and long-time director of the observatory. The Observatory was designed by A. Atkins to Joseph Ward’s specifications, cost £290 to build, and was formally opened by Premier Richard Seddon on 25 May 1903. The telescope had been bought second-hand in England for £450, and with its mounting weighed three tons.
In the Astronomical Society’s heyday before and during WWI, Joseph Ward was Honorary Director of the Observatory and Charles Whitmore Babbage, grandson of Charles Babbage the President, Secretary, and Treasurer. At this time Ward and his assistant Thomas Allison catalogued over 200 double stars, 88 of which are still recognised as “Ward doubles”.
In 1926 the observatory was gifted by the Astronomical Society to the Wanganui City Council, debt free. After Joseph Ward’s death, his son William Herschel Ward was honorary director of the observatory from 1927 to 1959. Since 1984 the Ward Observatory and its telescope have had a Heritage New Zealand Category I rating.
Located in Cooks Gardens, access to the observatory is from St Hill Street. Public viewing is on Friday evenings after dark.
While you there, might as well have a stroll into Cooks Gardens Whanganui, a multi-purpose stadium in the heart of Whanganui city. It is currently used mostly for rugby union matches, athletics,cycling, and hosting events and conferences. Cooks Gardens has been used as a sporting facility commenced in 1896. Since then Cooks Gardens has been the venue of a number of the world’s historic sporting occasions. One of these occasions was on 27 January 1962 when tens of thousands of spectators crammed into Cooks Gardens to witness athlete Peter Snell break the world record for the mile.
Public viewing is on every Friday evenings.
Category 1 rating
Since 1984 the Ward Observatory and its telescope have had a Heritage New Zealand Category I rating.
A lot more
Not just Friday. Visit the Visitor Information Centre and find out what else you can do.
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