I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published May 24th 2012
Siding Spring Observatory sits atop Mount Woorut in the Warrumbungle National Park. It is Australia's premier optical and infrared observatory and is home to fifteen telescopes, domes and enclosures, including Australia's two largest optical telescopes; the 3.9 metre Anglo-Australian Telescope and the ANU 2.3 mentre Advanced Technology Telescope.
Visitors to Siding Spring Observatory have the chance to see the Anlgo-Australian Telescope from a viewing gallery within the observatory. The building is only a short uphill walk from the car park and there are a few sculptures along the path, so keep an eye out. I spotted at bird, a spider and a silver ... thing. However, before you go inside the observatory, I recommend you have a look at the view over the Warrumbungles area. As you can see from the photo below, when I visited the observatory it was shrouded in cloud, but considering you can see it on the drive in, I can't see why it wouldn't offer a great view.
I'm not sure what this guy thinks he can see today!
It's also worth stopping at the observatory's Visitor Centre, which consists of a cafe, a souvenir shop and an area called The Exploratory. This area consists of a small museum full of educational astronomy displays focused on the universe, telescopes, our solar system, Australia's astronomy programs and more. There are even videos and interactive areas.
Lift these weights to feel how heavy a litre of milk is on each planet.
Siding Spring Observatory is also the centre of The World's Largest Virtual Solar System Drive. The observatory represents the sun and if you are driving to it from the direction of Coonabarabran, you will pass a number of billboards on the side of the road featuring the planets closest to the sun. The rest of the planets can be found on the five routes out of Coonabarabran, leading to Dubbo, Birriwa (north of Gulgong), Merriwa, Tamworth and Bellata (south of Moree). The planets on each route form a scale model of our solar system.
By visiting Siding Spring Observatory, you will be met with a world of astronomy that has been carefully designed to be accessible to the everyday person. I stumbled across it on a visit to the Warrumbungles area, but I recommend you intentionally include a visit to this site as part of any trip to the Hunter Valley.