‘Monster’ telescopes to visit Armidale

Published 03 May 2010

stars.jpgSome of the biggest privately-owned telescopes in Australia are coming to Armidale at the invitation of the University of New England and Northern Tablelands Astronomical Society (UNENTAS).

On the evening of Saturday 8 May the telescopes will allow the people of New England to come closer to the heavens than ever before.

UNENTAS is collaborating with PLC Armidale to stage the public astronomy night in the school grounds.

The telescopes are being brought to Armidale by 3RF (“Three Rivers Foundation”) Australia, an organisation dedicated to promoting public interest in astronomy by providing astronomical education and activities.

Chris Wyatt, the President of UNENTAS, said the 3RF team from Sydney, led by the amateur astronomer Lachlan MacDonald, would be bringing at least one 25-inch telescope and an 18-inch telescope to Armidale. “Imagine viewing celestial objects through portable telescopes over half a metre in diameter and over three metres long,” Mr Wyatt said. He added that “celestial sights” available on the night would include “some superb up-close views of star clusters and nebulae in the Milky Way, and galaxies whose light takes many millions of years to reach us”.

One of the visiting telescopes will be on display at the New England Wool Expo in Armidale on Saturday 8 May.

3RF coordinates a variety of informal public astronomy nights such as next Saturday’s event in Armidale. It also supports and assists other organised public events such as the annual South Pacific Star Party, hosted by the Astronomical Society of New South Wales at its property “Wiruna” near Ilford, NSW, and scheduled this year for the weekend of May 14-16.

“April-June is the amateur astronomer’s ‘prime time’ for viewing fine examples of celestial objects,” Mr Wyatt said, “and mighty Saturn and its rings will be an object that no first-timer will ever forget. So we would like to encourage as many people as possible to come along and help make the night a memorable one.”

He added that people would be able to take photographs of objects such as Saturn through the telescopes with their own digital cameras.

The night, which costs only $5 per person, will start at 6.30 pm with a presentation by 3RF. Tea and coffee will be provided. Mr Wyatt urged participants to dress warmly. For bookings and more information, contact Chris Wyatt on 0427 892 011 or e-mail UNENTAS at unentas@gmail.com.

UNENTAS meets at UNE’s Kirby Observatory, which houses the 14-inch (“Bill Webster”) Celestron telescope, on the second Wednesday of every month in 2010, and welcomes new members.

Last year, the International Year of Astronomy, UNENTAS collaborated with the Astronomical Society of Coonabarabran and the National Parks and Wildlife Service Discovery Program, taking astronomy-related events to schoolchildren and the general public throughout the New England and North West regions.