The Australian 50 Hour Project Nova Aquilae - The Vulcan Star by Alexander Hons
The Australian 50/50
Nova Aquilae – The Vulcan Star
Dr Graeme White
Where is the Nova Aquilae?
Where is Irvinebank in North Queensland?
The Purpose of this Talk.
• Give recognition to Dr McFarlane.
• Acknowledge the history and promote Irvinebank and it peoples.
• Talk about the LCO/GHOU 50 Hour/50 Nations Science Education project.
• Acknowledge the discovery of the Vulcan Star and place a respect plate on the
grave of Dr McFarlane.
. Acknowledge the TSAA (School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Atherton State
High School North Queensland) and OCAS (Online College of Advanced STEM).
• Special thanks to the Beatties for access to the observatory house for our
• Tin lode discovered in September 1888 by Italian woodcutters and miners - Harry Maranta, Alexander Leone,
Battista Leone and Giuseppe Lampatta.
• 1889 assayed 20% tin.
• Syndicate of local miners purchased the Vulcan mine from the Italians for £2,100.
• This company was the first joint stock company on the Walsh and Tinaroo fields to pay a dividend, in January
• Moffat infiltrated the Vulcan company through nominees and within seven months he controlled 40% of the
• A third company, the Vulcan Tin Mining Company was formed in
1892. Its capital was increased to £44,000.
• Moffat continued technical innovation installing in 1893 a first motion
double action winding engine, the first on the Walsh and Tinaroo
• Conbert Cornish boiler powered the 16-horsepower Tangye winding engines
with 4 ft 7 in drums with two 5 ft 11 in pully wheels at the base of a 30 ft
timber headframe. There were two cages for miners to descend the 302 ft
• Over the next 15 years the Vulcan yielded 9,000 tons of black tin
worth £377,362 and paid dividends totalling £162,030.
• The 1907 and 1908 strikes affected the value of Vulcan ore.
• Due to Moffat the Vulcan company continued. Stannary Hills company forced
to closed the Rocky Bluff battery after 1909 and railed its ore to Irvinebank.
• In 1913 an aerial tramway installed from the mine to the Loudoun
• Improved travelling to the working faces installed in 1915 when the
mine was down 1,460 ft.
Fresh chimney stacks in 1921.
The mine and machinery foundations are situated on a narrow bench excavated into a steep
hillside at the head of a gully running down to Gibbs Creek.
There were major strikes in the Vulcan in
1907 which were importance in the history
Of the Labor movement.
The mine is associated with miners
William McCormack and Edward Theodore
(Queensland Premier and
Queensland and Australian Treasurer) and
the establishment of the
Australian Workers Union (AWU).
Who are these kids?
I hope they were not
fodder for the
trenches of WWII
North Broken Hill Limited
applied for 60ha lease over
the Vulcan workings in 1947.
In 1981 Don Walker of
Herberton purchased the
mine as a local tourist site.
• Today, the Vulcan mine and its headframe is significant in Queensland's history for its development
as a local shareholders mine which supplied ore to the main battery, the Loudoun mill, in
• It was the most productive tin mine in North Queensland.
• It is Australia's deepest tin mine (at 464 metres) and has one of the largest headframes still
• A rare, uncommon or endangered aspect of Queensland's cultural heritage.
• This steel headframe is one of very few dating from before World War I and still standing on its
• A beehive brick covered underground water tank above the mine is now rare in the North
The local museum in Loudoun House, originally John Moffat’s
own home, contains much information about the beloved
doctor who is given as much prominent space as Moffat
Dr William McFarlane
-- A man of Sterling Worth.
Born at Chepenehe, Lifou April 5 1866
Ordained at Cheshunt College May 29 1891
Posted by London Missionary Society to Tatzukuo,
Inner Mongolia 1892-1894
Graduated from Edinburgh University as a Doctor of
Served in practise with Dr Beresford in Chertsey,
the Wirral Children's Hospital and
the Mafeking Refugee Camp.
He had "A colourful and adventurous life growing up in the South Pacific and the Torres Strait and later as a
missionary in the South Pacific and Inner Mongolia."
Took Charge of the Walsh District Hospital at Irvinebank in 1906."
The hospital was on the hill where Vulcan Ore Rd leads to today. The building no longer exists.
He had served at the Irvinebank hospital for 13 years.
“Dr. W. E. McFarlaue was re-appointed Medical Officer at the … salary of £400 per annum”.
In 1907 he made astronomical observations with a 7.6-cm telescope from the roof of the hospital.
Built an observatory to house a 17.8 cm Cooke Refracting telescope in 1917.
06/08/1918- observed Nova Aquila, brightest nova since Kepler's nova of 1604 which MacFarlane named
the 'Vulcan Star'. It is still known locally by this name.
Elected Member of Royal Geographical Society & Member of Royal Astronomical Society
Died 20 August 1919 from a severe attack of influenza (?) age 53. He left no relatives in Australia.
7 inch Telescope
• H.W. Fitchett of Melbourne was the original owner Dr McFarlane’s
telescope, a 17.8-cm Cooke refractor originally made in England by
Thomas Cooke and Sons, and sent to Australia in 1910.
• It came into McFarlane’s possession in 1917, 10 years after his arrival
Dr McFarlane’s Death - Dr McFarlane is dead.
Irvinebank and Stannary Hills, with the assistance of
Dr. McFarlane, had for several weeks been battling
with a severe attack of influenza, which was aided
by the worst of weathers. For the past week or
thereabouts, the weather has been of the brightest,
and the epidemic appeared to have been bested.
Everyone was congratulating themselves upon
having had a man of Dr. McFarlane's worth amongst
them during the battle. The doctor himself was
speaking of a well-earned holiday, a trip to India, as
a reward and rest after this struggle.
Impressive Funeral - Irvinebank, Aug 18. 1919
The funeral was by far the largest and most impressive ever seen in
Irvinebank. The cortege was of considerable distance, and the remains
were followed to their last resting place by practically the entire
population of the town, while residents came from Stannary Hills and
other centres to pay their last tribute to the doctor's memory. Sorrow
at his death was widespread and heartfelt. The coffin was hung with
wreaths sent by those who had known him and revered him in life, and
who mourned the death of a physician who gave his life in the service
of suffering humanity. To the children he was a patron, consoler and
fairy godfather. When they needed a football, sets of cricket tools, or
other implements of outdoor sport, it was to the doctor they went with
their requests, which were never once turned down. They marched in a
sorrowing group fully 200 strong, and were given pride of place next
the hearse, as he would have wished. Stepping behind them were men
Riverview College - Saint Ignatius'
Jesuit astronomer and seismologist Edward Francis Pigot (1858-1929) established
the Riverview College Observatory at the prestigious school in 1909.
Pigot transferred to the school from Shanghai in 1907, the same year McFarlane arrived in Irvinebank.
Pigot wanted to add an astrophysical section to the observatory, but only if he could obtain first-class equipment.
Riverview College - Saint Ignatius'
Cost was 160 pounds and money was donated by the father
of a former Riverview who was killed in France in 1916.
Pigot raised the considerable sum and then arranged for its dismantling,
packing and freighting from Irvinebank to Sydney.
Herberton firm Jack and Newell, founded by two early associates of John
Moffat, carried out these operations, which involved transport via dray, rail
The firm had previously transported the telescope from Melbourne to
Irvinebank in 1910.
Nine months after the purchase, the telescope reached Sydney on August
David Platz admires
the new boat that
his neighbour has
from in front of his
In 1921 the telescope was up for sale.
It was bought by St Ignatius College in Sydney
for the observatory Father Edward Francis Pigot was setting up
in the school grounds.
William McFarlane’s 7 inch Cooke refractor telescope
remains in usable condition at St Ignatius’ College,
Riverview on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.
Vulcan Star – Nova Aquilae – V603
Dr McFarlane named the exploding star Vulcan Star after John
Moffat’s famous tin mine.
“Although it was just about visible to the naked eye the
previous night, on the night of June 8-9, 1918,” it outshone
every other star but two, an instant astronomical sensation”.
“At the time, the life and death of stars was not well
understood and there was as much bafflement as excitement
amongst astronomers as the news spread and all telescopes
were trained on it,” Ms Davis writes.
The Vulcan Star
• V603 Aquilae (or Nova Aquilae 1918) was a bright nova in the constellation Aquila in 1918.
• A binary system, comprising a white dwarf of about 1.2 times as massive as the sun and donor low-mass star
about 20% of the Sun's mass, in a close orbit of approximately 3 hours 20 minutes.
Discovery of Nova Aquilae No. 3
Aitken, R. G.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 30, No. 176, p.259
McFarlane was first!
Historic pre-discovery plate.
Present day image.
to 2015V603 – Light Curve of 22750 data point up to 2015
• Astronomer Wayne Orchiston in 1985, suggest this was the same nova McFarlane had previously seen
sometime before 1914 and in 1916.
to 201522750 data point up to 2015
LCO’s 50/50 - The GHOU Project.
• International school-based research and education for the 21st
At it's best!
50 Nations/50 Hours Project
Run by a consortium of international educators
Headed up by colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (USA)
Telescope access donated by the LCO
Headed up in Australia by
Mary McGrath –
Graeme White –
David Platz –
Alex Hons -
50 Hour Project
Nova Aquilae – The Vulcan Star
Individual chapters – to be undertaken by individual students or student groups or schools.
• Dr McFarlane
• Vulcan Star
• Disposal of telescope.
• Recent newspaper articles
• The TSAA plaque
• What is a nova?
• What do we know about Novae Aql.
• Other observations – AAVSO.
• Light curves from AAVSO Data.
• Variability – science papers
• Observed Period
• 50 Hour observations
• Application for telescope time
• Exposure calculation.
• Downloading images.
• Image measurement
• New light Curve.
• Adding to AAVSO data
• Final Light Curve.
• Comments on Final Light Curve,
Publication and Submission for Awards.
• To be discussed.
What is a Nova?
• A nova is a transient astronomical event that causes the sudden appearance of a bright,
apparently "new" star, that slowly fades over several weeks or months.
• Novae is an interaction between two stars that cause the flareup that is perceived as a new entity.
• The Milky Way experiences about 50 per year. But only 10 per year are discovered.
• Either a pair of red dwarfs or a white dwarf and another star.
• The white dwarf captures matter from the companion. Runaway nuvlear fusion occurs when the
temperature reaches ~20 million K initiating nuclear burning.
• The rise to peak brightness may be very rapid, or gradual.
• Fast novae fade in < 25 days. Slow novae take more than 80 days.
• Amount of material ejected is about 1⁄10,000 of a solar mass.
• Ejecta velocities as high as several thousand kilometers per second. Contains Helium, Carbon,
Nitrogen, Oxygen, Neon, and Magnesium.
Dr McFarlane Remembered
• He is remembered by
• David Platz, Head Teacher, School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Atherton.
• Dr Graeme White, Astronomer, Wagga Wagga.
… and others.
2018 is the centenary of William McFarlane’s discovery of the Vulcan Star
in the night skies on June 8, 1918.
Atherton State High School’s motto, “Alis aquilae” (“On the wings of an eagle”).
We know that McFarlane’s seemingly damaged gravestone was
deliberately made that way — the symbol of a broken life.