Try for a photo of Jupiter, Venus and the crescent Moon tongiht

A month ago, Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon were nicely for evening sky watchers around the world. Tonight it’s happening again. Tonight the three will form a bright triangle in the western sky at sunset afte around 7pm.

See Jupiter, Venus and the Crescent Moon form a lovely traingle tonight

David Malin astrophotography competition – entries open April 2, 2012

Entries open on 2 April and close at midnight on Friday 15 June 2012 (AEST)

More info:

The Central West Astronomical Society is proud to announce the 2012 CWAS “David Malin Awards”. Click to download the Conditions of Entry.

The competition this year will have three sections of entry –

  • General Section,
  • Open Themed Section
  • and a Junior Section (18 and under).

The general section is divided into five categories;

  • Wide-field (camera shots),
  • Deep Sky (telescope shots),
  • Solar System Objects – Hi-Resolution (<30′)
  • and Wide Field (> 30′)
  • and a category for Animated Sequences.

The Junior Section will have one open category and entries can be of any astronomical subject.

Open Themed Section – “Symmetries”The “David Malin Innovation Prize” may be awarded, at Dr Malin’s discretion, for a striking astronomical image that shows exceptional imagination, innovation or an unusual approach in any of the categories.

The Open Themed Section is open to all astrophotographers. They are invited to compete together to see who can be the most creative in evoking the theme, which this year will be “Symmetries” – pictures that emphasise symmetries between objects in the sky, between the sky and the land or water (or other reflective surface), or that in some way suggest or evoke such symmetries through imaginative concepts and ideas.

As always, the content must be dominated by an astronomical object (or objects). The images must be single exposures, not a composite, except for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and panoramic images. The intention is to encourage people with vision, imagination and creativity, using simple equipment, such as a tripod and ordinary camera, to make attractive images that evoke interesting symmetries in the night sky.

Entry payments can be made by cheque, money order or direct deposit. For the entries to be accepted, the payments must be received by the deadline. Entry fees are $15 per entry.

The photographs will be judged by world-renowned astrophotographer, Dr David Malin. During the course of the judging process, Dr Malin may invite, at his discretion, the views of other distinguished international astronomers to aid him in his deliberations, with Dr Malin’s decisions being final.

All entries will be judged without David being aware of the identity of the photographer, and to preserve anonymity, the submitted image files should not contain identifying metadata. The winners will be notified and presented with the “David Malin Awards” during a special ceremony held in Parkes in the presence of invited dignitaries on Saturday, 14 July 2012.

A selection of the finest astrophotographs received will be professionally printed and exhibited for the entire year at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory’s Visitors Centre. In addition, a second set will tour the country in a travelling exhibition, organised by the Powerhouse Museum, to selected venues beginning with Sydney Observatory in August.

There is a limit of five (5) entries per category per photographer, but all photographs must have been taken no more than 2 years before the closing date of entry, and no re-entries from previous DMA competitions will be accepted. All entries must be submitted in electronic form via a dedicated submissions web site.

It is not just technical skill that Dr Malin will be looking for, but a memorable picture that reflects and captures the beauty, inspiration and interest of astronomy. All images will be judged by this criteria.

Canon Australia is supporting the competition with significant prizes for both the category winners and honorable mentions.

EASTER School Holiday Activities at Siding Spring Observatory

The Siding Spring Observatory and Café/Visitors Centre will be open over the Easter holidays from 9.30 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am to 4pm on Saturday, Sundays and Public Holidays. CLOSED GOOD FRIDAY

Walking Tours of the Mountain:

Take a closer look around Siding Spring Observatory. Join our Guide and explore this special astronomy site and learn about the importance of this area to astronomical research and the natural environment. Enjoy a walk with breathtaking views of the Warrumbungle volcano. Minimum number of people per tour group is 15.

Prices are: $10.00 for adults, $7.50 for children and Seniors, and $30.00 for a family (2A,2C) Prices include entry to the Exhibition area.

 April 2012
The dates and times for the Easter Holiday Period tours are as follows:

Tours usually take about 1½ hours.

Saturday   7th   10.00 am & 2.00pm
Monday    9th  10.00 am & 2.00 pm
Wednesday 11th Astro Talk 2.00pm
Thursday 12th  10.00 am & 2.00pm
Saturday  14th  11.00am & 2.00pm
Tuesday   17th  10.00am & 2.00pm
Wednesday 18th Astro Talk 2.00 pm
Thursday 19th 10.00am & 2.00pm
Weather permitting – solar viewing will precede the 2pm tours and the Astro Talks.

If you have a group of 15 or more people coming on another day and wish a tour – please contact the Visitors Centre to see if it can be arranged.
Bookings are required as numbers are limited per tour.

More information and bookings can be obtained from the Visitors Centre on 6842 6211.

In the Face of the Sun – Fred Watson Talk Monday March 19

Some of astronomy’s greatest spectacles involve objects passing across the disc of the Sun. When it is the Moon, an eclipse occurs, but if the object is one of the inner planets – Mercury or Venus – the event is a transit. While transits are of greater astronomical significance, a total eclipse of the Sun is simply the most awe-inspiring celestial event of all. This year, Australians will have the opportunity to see both these remarkable phenomena! In this entertaining and fully-illustrated talk, Fred Watson explores their history and scientific significance, and offers a few hints on how best to observe them.

At the Australian Museum – 6.30pm for light refreshments in the Atrium followed by a 1 hour talk starting at 7.00pm.

About Fred Watson

Fred Watson is Astronomer in Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Coonabarabran, where his main scientific interest is gathering information on very large numbers of stars and galaxies. He is also an adjunct professor at the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Southern Queensland and James Cook University.

Fred is well-known for his astronomy slots on ABC radio, and his recent books including “Stargazer – the Life and Times of the Telescope”, “Why is Uranus Upside Down? and Other Questions About the Universe, (which won the 2008 Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize for Science Writing) and the ABC’s blockbuster, “Universe”, for which he was chief consultant.

Fred has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won’t be his fault…


More ino:

April 4th – SKA Decision to be Made Public

In spite of many articles in the main stream press over the weekend, the Australian Commonwealth and West Australian governments have refused to give up on its proposal that Australia and West Australia, more specifically, be the nation to host the world’s largest radio telescope. This massive radio telescope, known as, the Square Kilometre Array, according to press reports has had the recommendation of a scientific panel’s to be in South Africa which is the rival consortium.

The €1.5 billion construction project is expected to start as early as 2016.

The SKA will be a revolutionary radio telescope made of thousands of receptors linked together across an area the size of a continent. The total collecting area of all the receptors combined will be approximately one square kilometre, making the SKA the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built. Once completed, the array will include several thousand antennas up to 5,000 kilometres apart operating as a single instrument. The SKA has been designed to have 10,000 times the potential of existing telescopes. Radio telescopes detect radio-frequency signals from space. They offer alternative views of the Universe than those seen with an optical telescope and can reveal areas of space that may be obscured with cosmic dust. Signals received by the SKA will be transferred to a central high performance super computer by optical fibres. The rate at which the vast quantities of data will be transferred to the supercomputer will far exceed the data rates of current internet traffic.

The SKA will use 3,000 dishes, each about 15m wide. Two other types of receptor, known as aperture arrays, will also be used to observe very large areas of the sky simultaneously. The receptors will be arranged in five spiral arms extending from a central core to at least 3,000km. In Australia the SKA would stretch all the way to New Zealand and in Southern Africa it would stretch to the Indian Ocean islands.

Until now, two sites have been proposed to host the SKA: South Africa partnering with Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia; and the Australia in collaboration with New Zealand.

According to reports, the SKA Site Advisory Committee made a confidential report last month recommending that the South Africa-led bid was the leader.

The recommendation is not final, however, and the decision now rests with voting countries China, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands on April 4.

Australia & New Zealand SKA project director Dr Brian Boyle ‏ tweeted last Friday, “ANZ team continues to respect confidentiality of the site process. We are actively engaged in current SKA Board deliberations.”

Meanwhile, WA Premier Colin Barnett assured local press that the bid was far from over: “There are still a number of processes to go through and I still believe very firmly that Australia is the best location for this extraordinary piece of science. It would be disappointing (if we did not succeed) and we still believe that Australia and particularly the WA site is the best site.”

The WA State Government has committed AUD$70 million to the project while at a federal level $400 million has been devoted to an adjunct project, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, which will result in 36 radio telescope dishes being located in the Mid-West region.

Hosting the telescope would create an almost incomparable “big data” project for the winner, demanding huge data links and computing power to handle the daily exabyte of data the instruments would collect.

The announcement was originally planned for February 29th but has been delayed.

The next stage of the process is a face-to-face General Meeting of the Members, excluding those from the candidate countries, to consider the SSAC’s report and recommendation, in late March or early April. This meeting will also agree on further steps which could include negotiations with the Candidate countries, or a vote on a resolution to select a site if consensus has already been reached. If the site is not selected at this first meeting of the Members, they will agree on the next steps in the process.

So nothing is finalised yet – we need to wait and see – as this telescope wherever it is located will be a major challenge for computing power, data storage and manipulation as well as power provision and will see many new technologies being developed over the next decade. Also, some amazing science will be able to be undertaken including looking for answers to the following:  How do galaxies evolve and what is dark energy?  Are we alone? How were the first black holes and stars formed?  What generates the giant magnetic fields in space? Was Einstein right? The SKA will investigate the nature of gravity and challenge the theory of general relativity.

The SKA will explore the unknown and, if history is any guide, it will make many more discoveries than we can imagine today. So stayed tuned…..

GAM2012 Astropoetry Contest

The contest is intended as a feature of Astronomers Without Borders’ Global Astronomy Month (GAM), April 2012.  Poems should be submitted between April 1 and April 30 (an entry form will be available soon).

The contest is intended for both children and adults, worldwide.  There will be three categories:
1.    Children grades 1-6
2.    Children & Young Adults grades 7-12
3.    Open (Adults)

When submitting your poem, include your name, city and country of origin, address where you can be contacted, and your category (for children, include your grade level).

To be judged in the contest, poems must be in English.  (If poem was originally written in another language, the original may be included for reference along with the English version, if the poet so desires.)

Poems may be on any astronomy, night sky, or space-related subject, but it is preferred that they relate to GAM programs (for example, Sun Day, Lunar Week, Dark Skies).

Poems may be in any style or form.  It is preferred that they be less than 30 lines in length.

The contest winners will be chosen by a panel of judges.  Prizes to be announced later.

2012 is turning out to be a landmark year for celestial events!

  • Partial Lunar Eclipse – June 4
  • Transit of Venus – June 56
  • Total Solar Eclipse – November 12 (North Qld)

A Transit of Venus is when Venus passes directly between earth and the sun so that we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun.  Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system. For Australians – it is the reason captain James Cook was down this way back in 1769.

The next transit of Venus occurs June 6, 2012. This will be the last transit of Venus to occur in our lifetime. The next will be in 2117.

So: Mark your calendar.  Plan a visit to join us here at Siding Spring Observatory to safely view this rare event.