How many telescopes can you fit on Mt John?

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How many telescopes can you fit on Mt John?

Mount John, New Zealand, is the home of University of Canterbury’s research observatory and Dark Sky Project’s stargazing tours. So, there are a lot of telescopes of all sizes, and I thought it would be interesting to write about them.

Starting with the smallest.

Photo Credit: Holly

Celestion 9 ¼-inch Schmidt–Cassegrain, The Dark Sky Project’s stargazing telescope: there are 5 of these on Mt John that we use for viewing, they are very versatile and can be used for looking at everything from the Moon to galaxies.

  • Altazimuth mount: Celestron CPU computerized mount
  • F ratio: F/10
  • Used for viewing


One of the Photographic plates taken by the Cook Astrograph showing the Small Magellanic Cloud. Photo Credit: University of Canterbury

10 cm (3.9-inch), 12.5 cm (4.9 inch) and 25 cm (9.8 inch) Cook Astrograph, now retired. This is the oldest research telescope on Mt John.

It has three cameras stacked on top of each other that take images using lenses rather than mirrors, unlike the other telescopes on Mt John. Back when It was in use, photographic plates were used to capture images of the night sky. This telescope was retired in the 1990s as the technology became obsolete: CCD cameras, and computing power on other telescopes is but is still an interesting relic.

  • Equatorial mount
  • Used photographic plates to take images.

Photo Credit:Holly

Meade 16-inch The Dark Sky Project’s stargazing telescope: This is The Dark Sky Project’s workhorse where we show our best objects in so that we can get amazing views of nebulae, planets, and globular clusters.

  • Equatorial mount: Sky-watcher Eq pro mount as shown in the photo but it has just been upgraded to an Altazimuth Planewave L-500 mount.
  • F ratio: f/10
  • Used for viewing

Photo credit: Holly

61 cm (24-inch) Boller and Chivens research telescope: this is a research telescope that is used to hunt for planets during the winter and other researches apply for time on it, and sometimes you can look even through this telescope.

  • Equatorial mount
  • F ratio: F / 6.3
  • Uses 3 CCD cameras for imaging or an eyepiece for viewing

61 cm (24-inch) Optical Craftsman research telescopes: this research telescope looks at cepheid variable stars to measure distances to them remotely controlled by the American Association of Variable Stars Observers in the USA.

  • Equatorial mount
  • F ratio: f/16
  • Uses a CCD camera for imaging (photometry).



1m McLellan research telescope: this telescope is the workhorse of the University of Canterbury, so this does whatever research that they are interested in at the time, some key projects have included looking for planets around Alpha Centauri, looking at vibrations in stars also known as ‘the music of the stars’ and hunting for asteroids.

  • Equatorial mount
  • F ratio: f/7.7
  • Uses a CCD camera or a spectrograph for imaging.

photo credit: Holly

1.8 m MOA research telescopes: this research telescope looks for planets around other stars and is the largest optical telescopes in the world. You can see my post about being an observer on MOA here.

  • Altazimuth mount.
  • F ratio: f/ 3
  • 10 CCD chips for imaging.

The Dark Sky Project has more telescopes at other locations so look out for another post about them too.

So, to answer the question: How many telescopes can you fit on Mt John? The answer is 11. Not too bad for one mountain.