TAMWORTH has laid claim to one of just two cameras in the world built by the British military in the early 1960s, capable of photographing near-earth events.
The Hewitt Camera was built to first track the Blue Streak Missile and later monitor Russian satellites.
Each camera cost 5.5 million pounds to make at the time and weighs 8.5 tonnes.
The two cameras remained based in Britain for many years, photographing asteroids, comets and other near-earth events.
But one made its way to Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran in 1982, providing results to complement those recorded by its twin in the UK.
When it was decommissioned, three Tamworth astronomy enthusiasts bought it and have kept it stored at a Moonbi property for the past nine years.
The Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club recently took over the prized camera as Tamworth engineer Raymond McLaren, of Andromeda Engineering, has worked to restore it.
On Friday, the final touches were made and the rotating Hewitt Camera – featuring a 34-inch mirror and 32-inch lens – was finally assembled.
“We’re intending now to put a digital camera in it to allow modern technology to photograph events,” club member and Tamworth Councillor, Phil Betts, said.
Cr Betts hoped the new camera would help spark interest in the astronomy sector and potentially boost tourism in the region.
“But it’s more important to engage the school students in the study of astronomy,” he said.
“(Former Tamworth man and NASA astrophysicist), Professor Stephen Kane has plans to give real astronomy projects to physics students in Tamworth and they’ll be able to use this.
“We’re going to build an observatory and science centre in Tamworth and hopefully the first stage will begin in June, so we’re really trying to involve schools right up front.”
The other Hewitt Camera lives as the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club also boasts Australia’s largest privately-owned optical telescope.