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Huge NSW brushfire threatens famous Australian observatory (VIDEO)


NSW Rural Fire Service members attack the fire at Sandhills from the ground on January 9, 2013 in Bungendore, Australia. Temperatures cooled overnight offering relief to fire fighters following yesterday's heat wave recording temperatures of over 40-plus degrees across the state. Crews continue to fight blazes today, taking advantage of the improved conditions ahead fire danger conditions predicted later in the week.


Brendon Thorne

A massive brush fire is threatening one of Australia's premier observatories, and scientists down-under are worried that priceless telescopes and other scientific equipment may be lost to the flames.

The Sliding Spring Observatory in New South Wales is the largest optical observatory in Australia, and is located within the lush Warrumbungle National Park, about 7 hours away from Sydney.

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Australia has been seized with record-breaking heatwaves this month, which have ignited huge, potentially deadly fires — including the flames that are burning within Warrumbungle National Park, near the observatory facility.

All staff and park visitors were evacuated by police, writes the Australian, and no injures have been reported.

More than 32,000 hectares of brush have been burned in the blaze, reports, while 110 people who reside in the area have been evacuated and are waiting for the all-clear.

Science blogger Amanda Bauer (also known as astropixie), who often works at the facility as an employee of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, has been keeping tabs on the conflagration on her blog, posting photographs and constant updates on the incident.

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Bauer's most recent post shows that the observatory's main 4-meter telescope appears to have survived the flames, although it's still unclear how much damage has been done, according to

Bauer has posted time-lapse footage of the fires from the observatory's security cameras, which can be viewed below.

Siding Spring Observatory is home to the largest Australia telescope, the Anglo-Australian Telescope, built in 1974 as a joint project between Australia and the United Kingdom, according to the Australian government. It is considered to be "one of the finest telescopes in the world."

Warrumbungle National Park is known for its excellent rock-climbing and camping, and remains closed to the public due to the ongoing fires, according to its website.