Otago telescope NZ's oldest

 Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin inspects the museum's 1736 telescope in Dunedin yesterday....
Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin inspects the museum's 1736 telescope in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN

A telescope in a Dunedin museum has been around for many moons and could be the oldest telescope in New Zealand.

Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin said the telescope was made by James Short in the 18th century and was one of two telescopes made by him and brought to New Zealand by Captain James Cook.

Capt Cook took the instruments on the vessel Endeavour to observe the transit of Venus in 1769.

The museum owned one of the telescopes and the other was owned by Wellington planetarium Space Place.

The Wellington telescope was made in 1758 and was 22 years younger than the museum's 1736 model.

The provenance of the telescope was researched by Dr William Tobin, a former senior lecturer in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Canterbury, Dr Griffin said.

``Based on the findings by Dr Tobin, this is the oldest telescope in the country, but of course, we'd love to hear from anyone who thinks they might have an older one,'' Dr Griffin said.

Dr Griffin was ``thrilled'' with the discovery by Dr Tobin, which highlighted the ``depth and breadth'' of the museum's collection.

``We are delighted to be able to say we are home to the oldest telescope in the country, an announcement that is very timely as we approach the first birthday of the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium.''

The planetarium opened in December last year.

The conservation of the telescope would be funded by the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies.

The museum would display the telescope in the ``near future'' after the conservation work was completed.

Centre director Prof David Hutchinson said the centre was established based on New Zealand's heritage in quantum optics.

``It is only fitting that we help support the preservation and display of New Zealand's oldest telescope as direct lineage of this optics tradition,'' Prof Hutchinson said.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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