Once a year, Siding Spring Observatory opens its doors for the public to experience and explore the research site and its extensive astronomy facilities as part of StarFest celebrations.
While numbers were slightly down on last year’s record crowd for the 50th anniversary of the Siding Spring Observatory, the 2015 StarFest has been hailed a great success.
The family-friendly program of events attracted hundreds of visitors to Coonabarabran for the October long weekend, giving the local economy a much-needed boost.
However, this year’s StarFest also helped to raise more than $5000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, a fitting move as three helicopters have been deployed to the local area during the past two weeks.
Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) astronomer and outreach officer, Dr Amanda Bauer, said Science in the Pub was sold out, Open Day was well-attended, and the Bok Lecture was enthralling.
“We didn’t have quite as many people this year, but it was a comfortable number, with over 1000 guests for the Open Day,” Dr Bauer explained.
“People tend to arrive in the morning and stay all day since there are so many activities to enjoy and telescopes to explore.”
In addition to a full line- up of events, the recently renovated Exploratory education centre was officially re-launched on Open Day with a smoking ceremony and ribbon- cutting.
The organising committee, comprising staff from both the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) and Australian National University (ANU), as well as representatives from other agencies located on the mountain, have already met to de-brief this year’s event and discuss ways to improve next year’s StarFest.
Professor Victoria Meadows delivers this year’s Bok Lecture, “NASA’s Search for Life Beyond the Solar System”, at the Coonabarabran Bowling Club. Photo - Peter Brookhouse.