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Perth Observatory
Deb Wild and Cathy Minchin, and the Perth Observatory’s Robin House, Craig Bowser, Carol Wolf, Carmel Borg, Carol Korb and Jen Holmes.

Star astronomer relics on display

RARE items from the family collection of WA’s first Government Astronomer, William Ernest Cooke, have been donated and put on display at the Perth Observatory.

As well as the donated items, which include a portrait of Cooke, personal letters to his wife and a painting by grandson and three-time Archibald award winning painter Clifton Ernest Pugh, significant personal and scientific items including Cooke’s Sun Clock and Heliochronometer are also on loan to the observatory museum.

“I wanted professor Cooke to be enjoyed by the public not just by our family,” descendant Deb Wild said.

“So here at Perth Observatory, where he is such an integral part of the history, is where he belongs.”

After his appointment to Government Astronomer in 1896, Cooke made observations that enabled the publication of the first catalogues of stars from Perth that also contributed to the Astrographic Catalogue, an ambitious worldwide project to photograph the entire sky, cataloguing the positions of millions of stars.

“Sir William Ernest Cooke’s impact on early Australian astronomy and the development of Western Australia as a colony and a state cannot be understated,” Perth Observatory’s Matt Woods said.

“Cooke made Perth Observatory one of the best-equipped in Australia for the photographic mapping of stars.

“Then you have his work with establishing exactly where Perth was on the Earth, which led to the development of Western Australian Standard Time, his weather reporting, and surveying skills, these were all jobs that helped developed Western Australia.”

The Sun Clock Cooke invented also enabled for the first time the accurate measure of time to enable clocks and watches to be checked against.

It was also able to indicate true North (as opposed to Magnetic North) and showed the correct day of the year.

View these items and more at the Perth Observatory Museum, Bickley.

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