Julie and her family. Image Credit: Geoff Scott

Hi, I’m Julie and I was accepted as a volunteer in September 2015. I was surprised that I was accepted as my skills are based in media, administration, management and coordination. No science degree here, just a love of astronomy and a tendency to get a little excited and carried away once I start a project.

The first training sessions and Monday meetings scared me to death. Any thoughts of being moderately intelligent were dashed to the ground as I realised I was surrounded by Perth’s elite of the science world, Science Geniuses, Physicists, Astronomers, Metallurgists, Computer Analysts, Web Designers, Lecturers, Minor deities, everyone was very clever … and some quite vocal. There I was, a middle-aged, mum of three trying to reboot my brain after 20 years of kiddie land, who had stumbled into a nest of SCIENCE GODS. I felt totally out of my depth. But, I was interested in Astronomy, had always wanted to learn more about it, and I am, regrettably, incredibly stubborn. So I stuck in there.

Front traffic wardens at open day. Image Credit: Geoff Scott

My first Night Sky Tour was an eye-opener, and it wasn’t just because my eyes were frozen open in fear and cold. I discovered something really important. These science gods were actually mortal. They have lives, families and above all a deep passion for Astronomy. They really LOVE it and just can’t wait to share what they know with whoever will listen. Luckily I like to listen. I started to remember names – Arthur, Harold, Matt, Terry, Ted, Roger, John, Alvin and even names like Globular Cluster, Pleiades, nuclear fusion, red dwarfs (not just a great TV show) – and a lot about that randy old Orion! I even plucked up my courage and spoke to the beautiful Diana, Goddess of the Observatory and discovered that she is one of the most genuine, helpful, kind, funny and intelligent women I’ve ever met.

My first baptism of fire was helping with the parking on Open Day. Well, I’m sure I don’t need to say any more about that, but I heard everyone had a great time and I really enjoyed the sandwich and drink courtesy of Roger. I also discovered I still have excellent bladder control.

I met the lovely, extremely hard-working Chris and pestered her continuously until she let me tag along with her day tour activities. I’m very lucky, I work from home and so can free up a day during the week to help out. I was also starting to miss being around ‘littlies’ as my youngest had just started high school. Day Tours are great. Exhausting but wonderful to watch the children interact and get excited about what’s around them. Chris saw that I liked to be busy so she allowed me to help her reorganise the Day Tour Room.

But I still had to do the SVN’s if I was going to conquer my demons and become… “A Telescope Operator”. I learnt more names – Ed, Rob, Garth, Mary, Ken, Bevan and started to despair that I’d ever remembered how many light-years between star systems, who discovered what AND when and how to explain the “String Theory” – Yes, we were asked that one night, thankfully Terry had a very concise and detailed answer… I’ve had the precocious child asking me to explain how the big bang could have been a big bang when space is a vacuum and so there is no sound, and I’m still trying to get my own head around the meaning of gravitational waves. Something about two black holes merging? Arthur? As you can see, I still have a way to go. I have finally learnt that the best way to “do the talk” is to just be myself. Talk about what I find is interesting and defer any highly technical questions to someone else. I’m nearly there and am stubborn enough to keep chipping away at it.

Julie with Cathy (left) and Diana (Right) in the Astroshop. Image Credit: Geoff Scott

So, what’s next on my agenda? I’m having a lot of fun driving Cathy, Rob, Brenda and Des crazy with my tidying up in the main building. It’s so much easier than sorting stuff out at home. (I’m really sorry Greg about the three big boxes I’ve culled your stuff down too, but you will have to collect them.) There’s some talk about sorting out the shop area, training, a dome to be built, gardening and really so many jobs that need an extra hand. Don’t be shy, if you have a couple of hours free one week, contact Cathy. If I’m there I’ll make you a cup of tea.

So that’s a brief run-down of my first 100 hours, I’m looking forward to the next and the next ad infinitum (NB. Use of an intellectual word)

Stay on Target! (Star Wars ..)

And remember, fellow fans “that’s no moon”.