Freelance, event organiser, food tour guide, lifestyle designer. The organizer of the largest bushwalking and social community in Australia. So why not sponsor a walk to promote your business with my group? www.meetup.com/walkers-165
Published November 15th 2012
Stargazing@Coonabarabran, The Astronomy Capital of Australia
If you are looking for a special place to celebrate the New Year, rather than squeezing into the crowd to watch the fireworks, I would highly recommend you take a road trip for a stargazing experience at Coonabarabran, the Astronomy Capital of Australia. In 2011, I organised a special New Year celebration for my social group, "Party with the Stars-Stargazing and Camping New Year Celebration". It was indeed the best New Year's Eve that I have ever had, let alone partying along with all the celestial wonders up above.
Coonabarabran, known as "Coona" for the locals, takes about 6 hours driving from Sydney, located at the Warrumbungle Shire in northern New South Wales. You will pass by Mudgee, noted as a wine producing town in NSW. So if you would like to stop and explore a little bit about Mudgee, I would recommend you visit the Australian Wildflower Jewelry Gallery, right inside Mudgee Visitor Information Centre and drive to see the local famous natural wonder: The Frog Rock, a piece of rock resembling a burping frog.
A hot spot for both professional researchers and amateur fans
When we arrived at Coonabarabran, we camped at the Warrumbungle National Park as the two stargazing observatories we planned to visit were both close by. Coonabarabran is the hometown of the Siding Spring Observatory, which has the largest telescope in Australia, the 3.5 meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory. There are also dozens of other telescopes dotted on the Siding Spring Mountain, operated by other independent organisations. Many local business and government buildings feature astronomically themed information plaques around the little town. I think it is enough to say why Coonabarabran is the Astronomy Capital of Australia.
The Souvenir Shop, its all about stars and its fantasy world
The Siding Spring Observatory is located 27km west of Coonabarabran. It has a public gallery and exhibition area which also incorporates a cafe and souvenir shop. Public visitors can have some hands on information about the universe, the solar system and the history of the Siding Spring Observatory. I particularly love the one litre milk demonstration. It shows the different gravities on the ten planets in our solar system. Guess which would be the heaviest to lift up?
1 Liter Milk Gravities Demonstration of the Solar System
If you are planning a visit to Siding Spring Observatory, please be aware that it is not open to the public for night viewing. If you are looking for a night viewing experience, you can arrange a stargazing tour with Peter Starr from the Warrunbungle Observatory. Peter Starr is a professional astronomical researcher. He has extensive experience in leading group tours of Telescope and Night Sky viewing and Remote Observatory Hosting.
I made a group booking on the night of the New Year's Eve. Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by his friendly pet cat. There were four telescopes set up in front of an open field right in front of his house. Behind these telescopes, there was the observatory. We were given an interesting introduction about the night sky, which was so breathtaking. I have never seen so many stars in the sky. They were so bright and so close as I could reach to them and pick one above my head. Thanks to Peter's introduction, we could easily lose track of all the constellations and galaxies up there.
Just saw a shooting star, forgot to make a wish...
Later on, we took turns to observe the magic starry night through the four telescopes pointing to different objects. It was the first time I saw the moon under the telescope, so clear that I could count the mountains. More surprising, the light cloud in the Milky Way turned out to be the Leo Galaxy. Inside the observatory, we have observed the planet Jupiter in all its glory, including the yellow belts on its surface. Peter and his assistant also helped you to take high definition pictures with your mobile phone or camera.
The transit of the Venus.Welcome the goddess of Love