Astronomy in October 2009

Welcome to my October bulletin for the International Year of Astronomy in Australia.

More than 530 events for the year have been listed on the Australian IYA calendar. That’s a great effort: congratulations and thanks to all of you who’ve jumped on board.

There are over 40 events around Australia in the next month. I’ve listed them below and full details are online at

The international highlight this month is the Galilean Nights, when amateur and professional astronomers around the globe take to the streets and point their telescopes to the wonders that Galileo observed 400 years ago. This event is another chance to take astronomy to the streets, to the parks, or to anywhere, really.

Even President Obama will be gazing at the stars this week, with a Star Party at the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday night. Professional and amateur astronomers will set up telescopes on the White House lawn to give President Obama, his family, and a group of lucky middle-school students an up-close-and-personal look at lunar craters and mountains, the giant planet Jupiter and its moons, and other celestial wonders.

Back home, local highlights include:

  • the re-trial of Galileo: a improvisational role-play of Galileo’s trial with notable Australians playing the roles of the historical figures; and
  • a week-long astronomy road trip with prizes in WA.

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.

If you have suggestions for future bulletins, or want to subscribe or unsubscribe to this bulletin, please send your request to we’re using this email address just for the bulletins.


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

In this bulletin:

  1. Galilean Nights
  2. The Re-trial of Galileo
  3. Exhibitions
  4. “Stargazing the Southern Skies” stamp and coin cover
  5. PAL College wins Gemini Schools Imaging Contest
  6. Events to end of October
  7. IYA banners for events

1.    Galilean Nights

On Thursday 22 – Saturday 24 October the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone Project Galilean Nights will see amateur and professional astronomers, enthusiasts, and the public taking to the streets all around the globe, pointing their telescopes to the wonders that Italian astronomer Galileo observed 400 years ago.

Spread over three nights, astronomers will share their knowledge and enthusiasm for space by encouraging as many people as possible to look through a telescope at our planetary neighbours. The focus for Galilean Nights is the objects that Galileo observed, including Jupiter and the Moon, which will be well-positioned in the night sky for observing.

Events are being held across Australia and are included in the events listings below.

2.    The Re-trial of Galileo

Are science and religion incompatible? Should political expediency outweigh scientific truth? The trial of Galileo, 376 years ago, raised these issues and more. On Monday 26 October at 6.30pm Galileo will get a second chance, and the issues around his case will be brought to light, when the University of NSW re-tries him in a modern setting.

Leading lawyers, academics, astronomers and media personalities have been assembled for this one-off performance, including astronomer Fred Watson as Galileo and barrister Julian Burnside QC as his defence counsel.

This event will be filmed by the ABC for a one-hour special on the Compass program in 2010.

In association with the re-trial, Maurice Finocchiaro, one of the world’s leading scholars on Galileo, will give a public talk on “The Galileo Affair 1609-2009”, at UNSW on 22 October.

RSVP essential by 15th October. Further information Rebecca Straker (02) 9385 8512.

3.    Exhibitions

Opening: From Earth to the Universe

The international IYA exhibition, From Earth to the Universe, has opened at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. For an eye-witness account of the launch, see the blog entry by Nick Lomb on the Sydney Observatory website, Nick modestly fails to mention that he was the co-curator for this exhibition, the other co-curator being astrophotographer David Malin.

In her opening remarks, CSIRO astronomer Ilana Feain, in talking about the beauty and meaning of these images, quoted the poet John Keats: “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty”. As Keats also said, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever” – or, in the case of this exhibition, until it closes in July next year. See it if you can.

Travelling: David Malin Awards exhibition

Meanwhile, the David Malin Awards exhibition of amateur astrophotographs has set out on its travels. One set of prints of the exhibition will be on show at Sydney Observatory until 18 October. It will then open at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium in Brisbane on 7 November. A second set of prints (identical with the first) has finished a sojourn at Siding Spring Observatory and will shortly open at the new Launceston Planetarium at Inveresk, then move to Questacon in Canberra in mid November.

The David Malin Awards are supported by Canon Australia, Sydney Observatory (part of the Powerhouse Museum), the Powerhouse Museum and CSIRO. The second, parallel exhibition is supported by the Australian Government and is funded with assistance from the Science Connections Program within the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research as an IYA activity.

4.    “Stargazing the Southern Skies” stamp and coin cover

Perth Mint and Australia Post have joined forces to offer sets of stamp and coin covers for IYA.  They feature a $1 coin struck by the mint and three stamps featuring astronomical images chosen by astrophotographer David Malin.

The stamp and coin cover is available for $14.95 from the Perth Mint:

Australia Post is offering the same set; a set of stamps alone under another cover; and other related products:

5.    PAL College wins Gemini Schools Imaging Contest

PAL College in Cabramatta, Sydney, is the winner of the inaugural 2009 Gemini School Astronomy Contest. This competition, which was open to high school students across Australia, was a special initiative of the Australian Gemini Office for IYA.

Students had to pick a celestial object and explain why it should be imaged with the 8m Gemini South telescope in Chile. Year 10 student Daniel Tran submitted the winning entry, making a case for imaging the Glowing Eye nebula (NGC 6751).

The nebula was then imaged by the Gemini South telescope, using one hour of observing time allocated to the Australian astronomy community. The final picture was presented to PAL College on 23 September.

For more on this story, see the Australian Gemini Office page,

6.    Events to end of October

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


National – Galactic Television Streamcast Every day at 8pm until 31 December (8pm)

Great World Wide Star Count Friday 9 October (7pm)

Astronomy Webcast From Charles Sturt University – October Wednesday 28 October  (7pm)


Galilean Night At Stromlo Saturday 24 October (8pm)

New South Wales

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

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

Beyond Visibility – Light and Dust 8 September – 9 October. A mixed media exhibition to celebrate and reflect the diverse ways in which ideas about Space and the Universe

Under Galileo’s Sky 10am every Thursday 1 October – 7 November. Aimed at Stage 2 and 3 students of schools in Western Sydney.

Look! Up In The Sky! Every day from Saturday 3 – Sunday 18 October (10am) at the Powerhouse Museum. A showcase of short astronomy films by outstanding young filmmakers from the SCINEMA: Festival of Science Film National Short Film Competition.

Twinkle Twinkle Every day from Saturday 3 – Sunday 18 October at the Powerhouse Museum. Three shows for children each day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Middle Head – Looking Up From Down Under Saturday 10 October (6.30pm) Cadman’s Cottage Sydney

Ice In Space AstroCamp 2009 Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 October. Three nights in the Hunter Valley

The Search For Extraterrestrial Life Saturday 17 October (9am) All day event run by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education

Festival Of The Stars – Coonabarabran Wednesday 21 October – Sunday 1 November

The Galileo Affair: 1609-2009 Thursday 22 October (6pm) University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney. Dr Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of Nevada, on whether Galileo was justly condemned for undermining the traditional belief that the earth stands still at the centre of the universe

UNSW’s Galilean Nights University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney. Thursday 22 and Friday 23 October – telescope viewing 7.30pm; Saturday 24 October – Solar Astronomy 1-3pm

Science In The Pub Royal Hotel, John Street, Coonabarabran NSW. Friday 23 October (6.30pm)

Galilean Nights Public Telescope Viewing Friday 23 October (7pm) at the oval, Randwick Girls’ High School. See Jupiter as Galileo saw it 400 years ago.

Galilean Night at Sydney Observatory Friday 23 October 7pm to 9.45 pm

Astro weekend at Coonabarabran, NSW, Friday 23 – Sunday 25 October, including:
Friday 23 October: Science in the Pub (astronomical, of course) at the Royal Hotel, Coonabarabran, from 6.30 pm
Saturday 24 October: Stargazing from 7 pm – a Galilean Nights event. Meet at the Visitor Information Centre in John St
Sunday 25 October: The annual Open Day at Siding Spring Observatory from 10 am. Entry is free, and a shuttle bus will help move you about the site. In the evening, the annual Bok lecture – a free public talk, this year by Professor Bryan Gaensler of the University of Sydney – will be held at Coonabarabran Primary School, from 6 pm. For more information, please contact Donna Burton, 02 68426255 or

Luminous – Dinner Under The Stars – Galilean Nights Saturday 24 October (7pm). Join Fred Watson and David Malin for a special night of stargazing with a glass of wine in hand, under the stars at Palm Beach

The Re-trial Of Galileo Monday 26 October (6.30pm). Improvisational role-play re-trial with parts played by prominent Australians including Robyn Williams, Bob Carr, Julian Burnside and many more

“From Earth to the Universe” Exhibition Tour Join Sydney Observatory Curator Nick Lomb for a guided tour through the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Saturday 31 October (2pm)


Night Sky Tour (Ballandean, Queensland) at the Twinstar Guesthouse Wednesday 21 October (7.30pm)

The Galileo Experience At Runaway Bay Library Thursday 22 October (6pm). Galilean Nights on the Gold Coast


Astronomy In A Nutshell exhibition at Monash Science Centre, Clayton. Until Wednesday 23 December

In the Steps of Galileo (Galilean Nights) Ballarat Observatory 23 – 24 October 7.30pm. More info: or (03) 5332 7526

International Galilean Night, Bendigo 24 October 8pm. Sidewalk astronomy at the Discovery Science and Technology Centre between Railway Station and Marketplace Shopping Centre. In the event of cloud cover, there will be a brief planetarium show held inside Discovery at 8.15pm.


Galileo’s Invention Of The Astronomical Telescope And His Remarkable Discoveries: Moons, Stars And A New Planet Thursday 8 October (8pm). Public Lecture at the University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay

The Astronomy Of Aboriginal Australians Saturday 17 October (8pm). Public Lecture at the University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay

Is There More Than One Universe? Tuesday 20 October (8pm). Public Lecture at the University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay

Western Australia

Space Trail WA – 2009 Monday 10 – Sunday 18 October. Nine venues in Western Australia are turning on something special to highlight the past and future of astronomy in WA. Activities include solar viewing at Whiteman Park, Perth, with the Astronomical Society of WA, and solar viewing and stargazing at Golden Grove Observatory, Chittering. Collect stamps or clues in your Space Trail Passport and you’ll have a chance to win prizes, including a telescope worth $1400. More information, including driving times between venues, on the flyer downloadable from

Zadko Stargazing – Gingin Observatory Sunday 11 October (7pm). See the newest telescope at the Gingin Observatory in action

Particle Astronomy – The Second Window Wednesday 14 October (6pm). Public lecture at the Curtin University of Technology, Bentley

Seniors’ Stargazing Nights – Gingin Observatory Wednesday 14 October (7pm)

Big Scopes At Northam Friday 23 October. A ‘scope viewing night at Northam Senior High School

Galilean Nights In The Perth CBD Friday 23 October (6pm) Sidewalk astronomy at Forrest Place Perth

Gingin Observatory – Public Open Day And Night Sunday 25 October (9am)

Big Scopes At ECU Joondalup Tuesday 27 October (7pm) A telescope viewing night at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup.

South Australia

Galilean Nights at The Heights Observatory, Modbury Heights: Friday 23 October 8.30pm (approximate) Event will only proceed if the weather is appropriate – please check before travelling.


And coming up in November:

Professor Bob Kirshner of Harvard University tours Australia, giving public talks in Canberra (16 November), Melbourne (18 November), Adelaide (19 November), Perth (20 November) and Sydney (22 November)

French astronomer and organist Dominique Proust gives a recital of William Herschel’s music in Sydney on 20 November and performs with the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra on 22 and 28 November

WA celebrates IYA with Astrofest, at Curtin University of Technology, Bentley, on 28 November

7.    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