Kirby Observatory opens its doors to celebrate astronomy

Published 30 March 2009

stars.jpgThe University of New England’s Kirby Observatory will be open to the public next weekend as part of a world-wide celebration of astronomy.

This year (2009), which marks the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations through a telescope – by Galileo Galilei – and the publication of Johannes Kepler’s Astronomia nova in 1609, was declared “International Year of Astronomy” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The biggest single international event in the year’s program is the “100 Hours of Astronomy” from the 2nd to the 5th of April, when thousands of local events such as telescope observation sessions and exhibitions will take place around the world.

UNE’s Kirby Observatory on Weirs Road (off Booroolong Road, north of the University) will be open from midday into the evening on Saturday 4 April and Sunday 5 April. Everyone is welcome to visit the observatory, and to experience astronomical observation using the 14-inch Celestron telescope (the “Bill Webster Telescope”), listen to talks by members of the University of New England Northern Tablelands Astronomical Society (UNENTAS), and enjoy barbecues on both days.

The President of UNENTAS, UNE Physics postgraduate Martijn Boerkamp, said that there would be opportunities for observation through the telescope both during the day and after dark.

Last year, the Kirby Observatory was awarded the status of “designated observatory” by the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) – a status given to observatories considered by the ASA to be “valuable astronomical resources”. The Kirby Observatory is used in the teaching of astronomy to UNE Physics students, and, as the home of UNENTAS, for astronomical education and promotion in the wider community. UNENTAS members contribute to astronomical knowledge by making significant observations – including observations of asteroids and comets.

Mr Boerkamp said that UNENTAS, which meets at the Kirby Observatory on the third Wednesday evening of every month, welcomed new members. He urged everyone with an interest in astronomy to visit the observatory and meet UNENTAS members over the weekend.