Our history

ANU is Australia's national university and has a unique history among Australian universities. Learn about our history, and how it continues to influence the work we do here today on the page below. Visit Heritage management to learn more about our well preserved heritage and principles.

ANU celebrated its 75th anniversary on 1st August, 2021. Journey back in time with our photo gallery that celebrates some of the people, moments and memories that have shaped our history at the ANU.


Bushfire threatens Siding Spring Observatory

On 13 January 2013, the facility was threatened by a huge bushfire and firestorm. Eighteen staff were evacuated to Coonabarabran. Three buildings were destroyed: 'The Lodge' accommodation used by visiting researchers, the Director's Cottage and the Fire Station. Bushfire prevention measures had been implemented and were credited with the protection of the telescopes. Since this time ANU has been undertaking a program of rebuilding at the site, restoring much of its lost functionality. Several of the damaged buildings are now managed as ruins and stand as a stark reminder of the fire. Optical astronomy is no longer undertaken at this site, however recent development of the site's manufacturing and industrial capabilities ensure the site is a thriving and world class research centre.


The Great Daylight Comet

Every few years a comet becomes bright enough to be easily seen with the naked eye. The discovery of C/2006 P1 on Aug 7, 2006 was a significant event, as this comet is considerably brighter than Halley’s Comet. The comet was discovered with the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.


ANU astronomers discover expanding universe

Perhaps the greatest astronomical contribution was the discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Professor Brian Schmidt formed the High-Z Supernova Search Team in 1994 to observe the characteristics of stellar explosions – or supernovae. Some work for this project was undertaken using the AAT and the ANU 2.3m Telescope.


Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories become independent centres

Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories separate from the Research School of Physical Sciences to become independent centres within ANU. Prime Minister Bob Hawke and other dignitaries visit Mt Stromlo to observe the close approach of Halley's Comet.


A new telescope for the observatory

A new 2.3 metre telescope is opened at the Siding Spring Observatory, which was closely linked with the Department of Astronomy in the Research School of Physical Sciences.


Observatory showing AAO and UK Schmidt Telescopes, 1980s (Source: National LIbrary of Australia)

Bob Hawke opens the University's largest telescope

The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, opened the University's largest telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.


Official opening of Sididng Spring Observatory, 1965 (Source: National Library of Australia)

Siding Spring Observatory officially opens

Siding Spring Observatory was officially opened on 5 April 1965. The University had set up three telescopes, together with supporting facilities such as sealed roads, staff accommodation, electricity and water.


First building constructed at Siding Spring Observatory

The first building constructed on the site was the 40-inch Telescope.


Siding Spring becomes a field station

The growth and sprawl of Canberra, ACT, developed rapidly and it was in the late 1950s that artificial lights from the nearby suburbs began to impact upon the observational capacity of the Mt Stromlo Observatory. In May 1962, the final decision was made by the ANU Vice-Chancellor Leonard Huxley that Siding Spring would become the site for the field station.