This small astronomical observatory was established by the colonial government at Point Gellibrand in 1853 at the suggestion of R.L.J. Ellery, who became director. Its main function was to provide a time service. A ball erected on a tower, visible from Hobsons Bay, was dropped at 1 p.m., enabling ships to rate their chronometers. Simultaneously, telegraph signals activated time balls at Melbourne, Geelong and later Queenscliff. The observatory also provided a precise determination of Melbourne's longitude. To support the geodetic survey of the colony, begun in 1858 under his direction, Ellery began a program of determining the positions of the more prominent southern-hemisphere stars. The observatory closed in 1863, when its instruments and the work they supported were transferred to the new Melbourne Observatory.