This Winter Solstice edition of the Perth Observatory Newsletter comes just as we begin a new episode for the Perth Observatory. After three years of volunteer management, we are now confident enough to embark on some ambitious developments.
We have discovered that not only do our visitors delight in viewing clusters and nebula through simple optical telescopes, but they also enjoy learning about the history of astronomy and the increasing role of technology in new discoveries about the universe. There are many beautiful stellar objects in our southern skies, and we have more clear viewing nights than cloudy ones. We are lucky, too to be able to build on 120 years of history and offer local, interstate and international visitors a memorable astronomical experience, clear skies or not.
The recent ABC Stargazing Live Guinness world record for the most stargazers viewing simultaneously across multiple sites was a powerful demonstration of the level of public interest in astronomy. More than 40,000 participants at 285 “stargazing parties” across Australia viewed the Moon through binoculars and telescopes of many dimensions for 10 minutes at the same time. We were honoured to host 302 of these viewers at our star party on the hilltop at Bickley and be on show in ABC’s live crossover to WA. Many participants stayed on afterwards to look through our telescopes, chat with volunteers and shop for eclectic items at the Astroshop.
This year, offsite viewing events at far-flung country areas of WA have been great fun for the volunteers involved as well as their audiences. Further afield, new and rekindled collaborations with other observatories may allow us to offer remote astrophotography and real-time remote viewing of the southern skies to an even wider audience.
Back on the hilltop, the summer viewing period merged seamlessly into winter with some gorgeous weather during May –before, during and after the super Stargazing Live event. Then on the 11th of June, we celebrated the completion of the refurbishment of the Obsession 30″, to be trialled on cool, clear nights over winter, then incorporated into mainstream and special viewing events from September. The refurbishment and upgrades to the dome and telescope have presented many challenges, overcome only by the skill and determination of our facilities and maintenance teams. Already there is excitement about the possibilities and to quote an experienced event host last weekend: “No twinkling stars tonight just crystal clear heavens and sharp as a tack viewing through the Meades and, a first for the paying punters, the magnificent Obsession 30”.
So after working through all the possibilities and priorities, the POVG Fundraising subcommittee is developing a Roadmap to chart the details of our heritage preservation, cultural history and science outreach programs. Already, we have had amazing encouragement and support from local community groups and businesses across many areas – whether it’s to repair a dome, pave a driveway, or improve the internet speed. These are acknowledged on our newly established Sponsors page.
We are now working with local Noongar Elders, Artists, Story Tellers and community groups, with particular thanks to Rotary Kalamunda, to incorporate 60,000 years of Aboriginal sky stories and astronomical lore into our outreach programs. We recently submitted a funding proposal to Lotterywest which if successful, would see a wide range of development programs including repair of our historical clocks, redevelopment of the museum, installation of outdoor signage, creation of an outdoor BBQ area and improvements for disability access amongst others. Exciting times are ahead, so please stay tuned.