Astronomy in November 2009

Astronomy Year

Welcome to my November bulletin for the International Year of Astronomy in Australia. This month sees a particularly interesting mix of events, from a “Dance Your PhD” workshop (to be videoed for the web), to a symposium on Indigenous Astronomy and a talk on the Antikythera mechanism, the most sophisticated instrument we know of from the ancient world.

A visitor of particular note this month is Professor Bob Kirshner from Harvard, a member of one of the teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe in the late ‘90s. He’s here to give free public talks (in Perth tonight and Sydney on Sunday) on how the discovery was made, and what astronomers are doing today to determine the nature of the “Dark Energy” that is pushing the expansion along. Professor Kirshner’s visit is funded by a Selby Fellowship administered by the Australian Academy of Science.

My thanks to the Commonwealth Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research for their support of the Year and of these bulletins.

Please feel free to forward this bulletin to others with an interest in astronomy and to cut and paste from it for your own publications.

If you have any queries, please contact me on or (02) 9372 4251.

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Helen Sim

Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in Australia for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy

Tel: +61-2-9372-4251

Mob: +61-419-635-905

(sent by Science in Public on Helen’s behalf)

In this bulletin:

1.          Jupiter 24: Canberra launch and talk in Sydney

2.          The Antikythera mechanism

3.          Indigenous Astronomy symposium

4.          Astro book drive for Rwanda

5.          Dance Your PhD

6.          Upcoming events

7.          IYA banners for events

Jupiter 24: Canberra launch and talk in Sydney

Friday 20 November sees the Australian launch of ‘Jupiter: Project 24’, 24 hours of continuous radio observation of the planet Jupiter by the three stations of NASA’s Deep Space Network, which are at Goldstone in California’s Mojave Desert, near Madrid in Spain, and of course near Canberra. The radio emission from Jupiter comes from both the thermal emission from the planet plus the non-thermal emission of high-energy electrons trapped in Jupiter’s magnetosphere. This is the first time that such a long continuous series of radio observations has been undertaken, and it’s been organised to commemorate Galileo’s observations of Jupiter and its moons. As well as the project launch (at CSIRO’s Discovery Centre, Canberra, 20 November) there will be an associated talk in Sydney on 24 November (bookings required: (02) 9274 9200).

More details at

The Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism is the most significant scientific instrument to have survived from the ancient world, with workmanship that was not seen again in Europe until the 14th century. It was recovered in 1901 from a 1st century BCE shipwreck off the coast of the Greek Island of Antikythera.

But the object is badly corroded and its purpose was obscure. Today, after a century of work, the consensus is that its system of more than 30 interlocking gears was designed to calculate astronomical positions.

On Thursday 26 November at 6.30 pm Professor Robert Hannah (University of Otago, Dunedin NZ) will give a presentation at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum on the workings of the Antikythera mechanism and the history of our attempts to understand it.

Allan Bromley and Frank Percival’s model of the Antikythera Mechanism is on display at the Nicholson Museum in the exhibition The sky’s the limit: Astronomy in Antiquity.

Bookings are required for this event: (02) 9351 2812

Indigenous Astronomy symposium

On Friday 27 November there will be a one-day symposium on Indigenous Astronomy at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra, sponsored by AIATSIS, CSIRO, and ICRAR, as part of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.

The symposium is timed to coincide with the Canberra launch of the art exhibition ‘Ilgarijiri — things belonging to the sky’, a collaborative project between ICRAR astronomers and Yamaji Art in Geraldton. The art exhibition and the Symposium bring together Indigenous artists, speakers, and scientists to exchange and celebrate different perspectives about the night sky.

Space at the Symposium is limited, so it is essential to register in advance.

Further details are at

Astro book drive for Rwanda

This event will be most applicable to professional and amateur astronomers, and students—but if you are none of those yet own a few astronomy books, keep reading!

Donna Burton, the Australian representative for the international group Astronomers Without Borders, is collecting astronomy books to send to Rwanda.

The book drive is one of several being organised around the world for IYA, coordinated by Thilina Heenatigala, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Astronomical Association.

Popular astronomy books and introductory-level textbooks, in usable condition, would be the most welcome. Books should also be up-to-date enough to be useful and not misleading.

The IYA site for Rwanda,, sets out that country’s aspirations for developing astronomy.

Books can be left with or sent to Donna Burton at Siding Spring Observatory or Helen Sim at the CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility in Sydney. Students attending the Stromlo Student Christmas Seminar (27 November, Mount Stromlo Observatory, Canberra) can also bring books to that for Donna to collect.

The book drive will finish on 15 December 2009.

Enquiries: Donna Burton, , (02) 6842 6255 (office), and 042 828- 8244 (mob.)

Dance Your PhD

This Canberra event is for students doing research degrees in all areas of science, medicine and health (yes, PhDs, although Masters students probably make the cut too). But the results will be videoed and posted to the web, and thus available to the wider world.

Dance Your PhD is just what it says: students interpreting their research topics in dance. The idea has been promoted by the journal Science for a few years, and you can find examples—both good and bad—on YouTube. For some polished examples, see

This year, Mount Stromlo Observatory will host an ANU Dance your PhD event. A full-day workshop with Melbourne mime artist Sam Davison will be held on Thursday 26 of November, for participants to prepare their routines. The performances will take place on the Friday 27 November as part of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Christmas seminar.

Students from all areas of science, medicine and health are welcome (and encouraged!) to participate.

To find out more, please email Christine Nicholls at or visit the website at

Upcoming events

Events coming up include the following. More information at except as noted.


  • National – Galactic Television Streamcast Every day at 8pm until 31 December (8pm)
  • Astronomy Webcast From Charles Sturt University, Saturday 21 November and Saturday 12 December (9pm)


  • Jupiter: Project 24 – From Galileo to the Deep Space Network. A public event with talks to launch the Jupiter 24 project. Friday 20 November, CSIRO Discovery, Canberra. (4.30pm)
  • Things belonging to the sky: a symposium on Australian Indigenous sky knowledge, at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Studies. Friday 27 November (9.00am – 5.30pm). Registration required.
  • Ilgarijiri – things belonging to the sky. An exhibition of works by Yamaji artists from Western Australia, on show at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Studies in Canberra throughout December. (Launch on 27 November.)
  • Apogee/perigee, A Collaboration Between Art And Astronomy is an exhibition resulting from a collaboration between visual artist Genevieve Swifte and astronomer Dr Patrick Tisserand from Mount Stromlo Observatory, ANU, Canberra Contemporary Artspace, Manuka, 3-13 December

New South Wales

  • Behind Scenes Tour Siding Spring, every Saturday (10.30am)
  • From Galileo to the Deep Space Network. A free public talk sponsored by the Embassy of Spain. Tuesday 24 November (7.00 pm) Bookings required by 22 November : 02 9274 9200
  • Exploding stars and the accelerating cosmos: Einstein’s blunder undone. A free public talk by Harvard Professor of Astronomy, Robert Kirshner. Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Sunday 22 November (2 pm)
  • The Antikythera Mechanism: ‘as above, so below’. Talk at the Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney, by Professor Robert Hannah, University of Otago. Thursday 26 November (6.30 pm)
  • Macquarie University Observatory – Friday Night Observing offers a weekly “starfinder” session and telescope observation Every Friday until 27 November (8:30 to 10PM). Subject to bookings and weather
  • Exhibition tour, join photographic astronomer David Malin for a guided tour through the “From Earth to the Universe” exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, Saturday 28 November (2pm)
  • Young Starwatchers, learn about the universe for children and adults, Observatory at the University of Western Sydney, Friday 4 December (6.30pm)
  • The sky’s the limit: astronomy in antiquity is an exhibition at the Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney, exploring the astronomical understanding of ancient cultures, to Sunday 13 December


  • Night Sky Tour, a guided tour of the night sky, Twinstar Guesthouse Observatory, Ballandean, Wednesday 16 December (9.30pm)


  • Astronomy In A Nutshell exhibition at Monash Science Centre, Clayton. Until Wednesday 23 December
  • Heavens Above!, an Astronomy evening with the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society, The Briars Historic Park observatory, Mount Martha, Friday 4 December (8pm)
  • Sky Lab. An exhibition curated by Felicity Spears of works that address “What do we see when we look out?” Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Swanston St. 2-19 December and 13-30 January. (Wed to Fri 1-5 pm, Sat 11am – 5 pm)

Western Australia

  • Exploding stars and the accelerating cosmos: Einstein’s blunder undone. A public talk by Harvard Professor of Astronomy, Bob Kirshner. Scitech, Friday 20 November (7:30 pm)
  • AstroFest, An event for the whole family, involving inflatable planetaria, viewing sessions, and lectures, Curtin University of Technology, Bentley, Saturday 28 November (8am and 2pm)
  • Joondalup Concert Event, Scitech astronomer Peter Birch joins in with the ‘Joondalup Concert’ with some seriously big scopes in tow for this special event celebrating the International Year of Astronomy, Friday 4 December (9pm)

South Australia

  • AIP-SA AstroFest 2009, lecture and activities for year-9 students, Wednesday 25 November (9.30am)
  • Free Street Telescope viewing at Mt Barker Central shopping Centre, Thursday 26 November (8.30 pm)


IYA banners for events

We have eight freestanding banners, each about 2 m tall, bearing the IYA logo. They are suitable for indoor use only. If you’d like one to use at your IYA event, please contact me at to see if one is available.

For more information about these events visit

If your event isn’t included in this listing please register it at


Helen Sim

Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in Australia for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy

Tel: +61-2-9372-4251

Mob: +61-419-635-905

(This email is sent by Science in Public on behalf of Helen Sim. Full contact details at

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