All eyes were focussed on Siding Spring Observatory (SSO) during the October long weekend, as the annual astronomy-themed festival, StarFest, captured the interest of thousands.
Organisers have hailed this year’s 2016 StarFest as one of the best, with visitors travelling from across NSW, interstate and even overseas, to attend.
Despite some wild weather, including snow, in the lead-up to the event, SSO site operations manager, Brad Condon, said the weekend was a great success.
“Numbers to all events were up from last year,” Mr Condon said.
“Science in the Pub and the Bok Lecture were both sold out, and there were around 2000 up on the mountain for Open Day.
“We’ve enjoyed some good exposure from shows like Sydney Weekender recently, and this has helped StarFest gain even more momentum.
Mr Condon said recent news surrounding Warrumbungle National Park’s Dark Sky Park declaration also piqued the interest of people.
“The announcement has really helped promote astronomy in the region and observing conditions that exist in the park,” he said.
“There are always a few regulars who have a keen interest in astronomy, but StarFest aims to bring something new and different each year.
“Different topics and talks, different presenters, different discussions at Science in the Pub.
“This helps to bring people back year to year.” Event organisers also took the opportunity to officially open the newly refurbished Exploratory during Open Day on Saturday, 1 October.
The interactive education centre has undergone a $30,000 re-development, which features state-of-the art technology.
“It gives the site another attraction to promote and we’ve already received favourable feedback from the public,” Mr Condon said.
“Visitors can now gain a far more positive experience from their time in the Exploratory, and this will only increase with the installation of a 3D theatre very soon!”
Mr Condon said it was always a relief to have another festival done and dusted for the year.
“It can be a lot of work and is very busy for all staff who are involved.
“We will have a debrief very soon to discuss what was successful and what could change, and start planning for 2017.”
ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics manager, Dr Milica Symul, and iTelescope photograph competition winner, Blake Iscaro, from Melbourne, officially opened the Exploratory at Siding Spring Observatory last Saturday. Photo courtesy Steve Chapman.