Geomagnetic observatory relocated

16 December 2011

Map of geomagnetic observatory stations on the Australian mainland and external territories. Copyright Geoscience Australia.

Map of geomagnetic observatory
stations on the Australian mainland
and external territories.
© Geoscience Australia.

Progress has overtaken a major scientific observatory operated by Geoscience Australia in Western Australia and it is to be de-commissioned after almost 55 years service.

Geoscience Australia has decided to close the Gnangara geomagnetic observatory and establish a new facility near the country town of Gingin about 90 kilometres north of Perth because of the increasing growth of Perth.

Geoscience Australia researcher, Dr Adrian Hitchman, said that the decision to close the Gnangara site was the result of urban expansion, occasional vandalism and disturbance from near-by mining operations, none of which is compatible with the quiet conditions preferred for geomagnetic observatory operation.

"The Gnangara observatory will operate in parallel with its Gingin counterpart for 12 months so that station differences can be established between the sites before ceasing operations," Dr Hitchman said.

The Gingin observatory will be part of Geoscience Australia's network of 10 geomagnetic observatories in Australia and Antarctica. It is expected to continue operating for a least 50 years and extend the current 93 years of magnetic field monitoring which has been undertaken in southwest Western Australia," he said.

Gingin is the third geomagnetic observatory in the State's southwest with the first near Watheroo in 1919 operated by the Carnegie Institution of Washington until it closed in 1958 after operating in parallel with the Gnangara observatory for 12 months.

Geoscience Australia's geomagnetic observatories are part of an international observatory network which monitors Earth's ever-changing magnetic field.

Dr Hitchman said the geomagnetic information obtained is used in a variety of applications such as navigation, scientific research, space weather analysis and exploration for oil and gas and for minerals exploration.

"The information is used also for applications in emerging technology associated with personal electronic devices such as magnetic direction finding on mobile phones, watches and cameras" Dr Hitchman said.

For more information visit the geomagnetism page.

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