The Warrumbungles

Siding Spring Observatory is located in the Warrumbungles, an ancient mountain range that has been inhabited for thousands of years.

180 million years ago, the region was mostly shallow lakes. Volcanic activity then transformed the previously tranquil landscape. Lava rose to the surface in a number of different vents throughout the region, and hardened into tall features. Increased volcanism then led to most of the area becoming one huge pile of volcanic rock. This tectonic activity lasted from approximately 17 – 14 million years ago. After it ceased, erosion ate away at the pile, and reduced it to the initial outbursts of harder silicon rock in jagged formations, which is what can be seen today.

The natural beauty of the region was formally acknowledged is 1953 when it became a national heritage site. The Warrumbungles have been part of a national park ever since.

Archaeological evidence suggests that indigenous Australians lived in the Warrumbungle region over 5,000 years ago. In fact, the name Warrumbungle is an aboriginal word from the Kamilaroi people, meaning ‘crooked mountains’. The land the national park now occupies is thought to previously have been home to three different aboriginal tribes:  the Kamilaroi, the Wiradjuri and the Weilwan.

Studies have shown that the current use of the Warrumbungles as a place from which to observe the night sky is not entirely new. It is now thought that some aboriginal tribes such as Kamilaroi used specific stars in the night sky as an aid to help them remember routesto meeting places. These stars formed a ‘map’ that could be passed down between the generations, and could not be lost or destroyed.

Viewed in this way, people have been star gazing from the Warrumbungles for millennia. 

An image of the Siding Spring Observatory and the WarrumbunglesA panorama view of the Siding Spring Observatory and surrounding Warrumbungle National Park. Image: AAO