Archive for 2014

Have an astronomical NEW YEARS EVE 2014  with Sydney Observatory at a special MEMBERS ONLY event.

Tickets are $95 per adult and $52 per child with a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children of $250 (limit of 1 Family ticket per membership or 4 individual tickets).  Gates open at 19:00 (7pm). After the midnight fireworks the site closes at 00:30 (12:30).  Numbers are strictly limited.

Tickets go on-sale from 10am Wednesday 29 October 2014. There are no pre-sales or holds prior. Please note the best way to secure your tickets is on-line. The BOOKING LINK will be on this page from 10am on 29 October and an email will be sent to Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory, Discovery Centre).

NYE Sydney Observatory

NYE Sydney Observatory

This special New Year’s Eve family venue is available exclusively to Powerhouse Museum Members and their guests.

Sydney Observatory is a very special location on New Years Eve. Before you book please note that the prime viewing areas are not available for picnics. Picnic areas are on the south and side lawns and the Signal Station site. This is so that everyone has a chance to view the fireworks at 9pm and midnight.  There is not a face-on view of the Harbour Bridge and the surrounding trees do obscure some views of the fireworks but there are plenty of good areas to view the fireworks from 9pm and at midnight when Sydney Observatory drops the Time Ball to signal in the New Year.  Please note that Sydney Observatory is a completely fenced, secure and safe site and the limit on numbers attending the event on the night is 300. On the evening we have security guards and cleaners. We encourage you to bring a picnic blanket. No tents or portable chairs with spiked legs are allowed because of the underground drip watering system.

Sydney Observatory has a licensed bar and will be serving bottles of chilled sparkling and still white and red wine at reasonable prices (between $22 and $30 per bottle) as well as beer options. Plastic glasses will be provided on purchase of the wine (or bring your own non-glass goblets). Soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters will be sold in bottles and cans, also with plastic glasses, as well as snacks such as chips and crackers at reasonable prices. Please be aware that BYO alcohol is not permitted. Free tea and coffee will once again be provided by Museum volunteers.

The Observatory building will be open from 7:15pm until 8:45pm on the night and, if the weather permits, telescope viewing will be made available. There will be no food or drink permitted inside the Observatory buildings.

Delicious gourmet hampers for two are able to be purchased directly from the Langham Hotel chef and collected on arrival at Sydney Observatory. The cost is $130 for the hamper. Please contact the Langham Hotel directly on (02) 8248 5220 or email:

All profits support the heritage and collection program at Sydney Observatory. No refunds will be made and the event proceeds regardless of weather.

Please note that The City of Sydney will have security measures in place preventing glass and alcohol to be bought onto Observatory Hill. Plan to use public transport. For all transport information and road closures on the day please see

In keeping with a NSW Government requirement Sydney Observatory applies a surcharge on all transactions made by debit or credit cards. Surcharge rates are on a cost-recovery basis only.Payments made on Visa and Mastercard will attract 0.40%. No surcharge will be incurred when paying with EFTPOS or cash.

Sunspot almost outshines eclipse

Published by Melissa Hulbert on October 24, 2014 No Comments

Today marked the start of the Solar Eclipse Conference 2014 in New Mexico. The first two days of the four day conference focus on education and are being hosted by the Sacramento Peak Observatory.

In the morning we heard from Ralph Chou on eclipse safety and some of the new statistics on eye damage caused by not properly observing the Sun and Fred Espenak who spoke about what he has learned over many years of eclipse chasing, some of the do’s and don’ts with imaging.

Fred Espenak speaking on "Photographing Eclipses".  Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

Fred Espenak speaking on “Photographing Eclipses”.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

The afternoon was devoted to the partial solar eclipse and everyone setup cameras, telescopes, binoculars and solar glasses to observe to eclipse and a wonderful sunspot, which is said to be the largest since 1988. In fact the sunspot looks so good, even just through solar glasses that it almost over shadowed the eclipse!

There were a few clouds around during the day but by late afternoon the skies were clear and a clear view of the eclipse and the spectacular sunspot made for very happy eclipse chasers! Maximum eclipse saw just over 43% of the Sun covered by the Moon. Our observing site was next to the Dunn Solar Telescope  and being one of the highest points around (about 2800m above sea level) provides impressive views across the valleys.

Many might ask why a partial is interesting given its not total or annular eclipse? Partial eclipses all appear differently especially when sunspots are present and t also gives eclipse chasers (also known as Umbraphiles) a chance to test new gear and equipment setups ready for the next total/annular eclipse.

Maximum Eclipse. Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

Maximum Eclipse.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

If you have solar glasses (or specialised filters for your telescope/binoculars) then take a look at the magnificent sunspot. Otherwise, if you don’t have specialised solar viewing equipment then drop into Sydney Observatory and do a tour that includes viewing through the telescopes (weather permitting) over the next few days – this sunspot is really worth a look!














Antikythrera mechanismThe appearance of eclipses is governed by the Saros cycle, a long sequence of eclipses occurring at 18 year intervals. Today’s eclipse is part of Saros 153 and many cycles are in play at any one time. Australia will not see an eclipse in the Saros 153 cycle until the year 2501!


The remarkable Antikythera mechanism had the Saros cycle programmed into its gearing to  predict eclipses.





24 Oct 2014 Daily cosmobite : Partial solar eclipse

Published by Andrew Jacob on October 23, 2014 No Comments


A partial solar eclipse occurs on the morning of Friday October 24, 2014 AEDT . It is only visible from far eastern Russia, Canada, USA and Mexico but you can view it via live streams from Griffith Observatory, LA and SLOOH. Both streams begin at 8am AEDT.

*Full eye-safety precautions are required if you are viewing this eclipse in person.


The partial solar eclipse of October 24 2014 (AEDT) as seen from Los Angeles. The Moon partially covers the Sun. Chart generated by TheSky6 © Software Bisque, Inc.

Daily cosmobite: Constellation Grus, the Crane

Published by Andrew Jacob on October 22, 2014 No Comments

GrusThe constellation Grus, the Crane, is high overhead at present. It first appeared on a celestial globe by Petrus Plancius in 1598. It is one of nine celestial birds but it looks more like a scimitar to me.






Grus, the Crane. Chart generated by TheSky6 © Software Bisque, Inc.





Gough Whitlam

Margaret Whitlam AO and Gough Whitlam AC QC in 2007 with Toner Stevenson, manager Sydney Observatory. Photo G. Wyatt.


Today Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC, Prime Minister for Australia from 1972 to 1975, has died at the age of 98. Gough Whitlam was a scholar, a social reformer and he acted on his passion for Australians to shake off our cultural cringes and narrow mindedness and make our own future. His short, less than three years in office, were a turning point in all our lives. Margaret Whitlam AO was always by Gough’s side, but she was a strong, independent woman with views which along with her husband, helped shape society.

Many of us owe our education to the reforms made by Whitlam’s Labor government. For the generation who attended University in the 1970s and 80s we were the first in our families to obtain degrees. Many social and civil rights we take for granted today were due to the Whitlam era. Like so many of his ideas and policies Gough Whitlam forged ahead with ‘giving back’ land to the Gurindji People, a turning point in the battle for land rights by Aboriginal Peoples. It was the right thing to do.

Gough told us that we should and could all embrace the Arts, and subsequently the foundation was laid for a magnificent Australian National Gallery when Jackson Pollock’s ‘Blue Poles’ was purchased in 1973. Movies, such as Storm Boy, the Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, My Brilliant Career, the Getting of Wisdom and Picnic at Hanging Rock, were able to be funded and Australians became known around the world as creative, and as having an arts industry. During this period confidence in all of the art forms flourished.

In September 2006, many years after the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government, I was fortunate to be invited to the launch of the ‘The Great Wall of China: dynasties, dragons and warriors’ exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Gough Whitlam gave a memorable speech about his important visit to Beijing in 1971, just before he took office, he then returned in 1973 as Prime Minister. He spoke about how Australia’s relationship with China was developed during those visits and it was obvious, that this relationship between Australia and China was one of his proudest achievements.

Afterwards at the celebratory dinner in Chinatown, I was fortunate to chat with Margaret and Gough Whitlam about the relationship Sydney Observatory has with Beijing Planetarium, and that Geoff Wyatt had recently been on an astronomy fellowship to China. The photograph taken that evening will always be treasured.

For more about Gough Whitlam’s life and Legacy I recommend this link.

Orionids.TheSky.2014The Orionids meteor shower reaches its peak on October 20 or 21. The meteors are caused by dust from Halley’s comet entering our atmosphere. Look for them after midnight from a dark place.






Orion is in the north-east sky at 2am in mid-October. Look for fast meteors radiating from below Betelgeuse, the orange star of Orion’s shoulder. Chart generated by TheSky6 © Software Bisque, Inc.




UppsalaSchmidt.Siding SpringComet Siding Spring, C/2013 A1, passes close by Mars today at a distance of about 140,000km.



Comet Siding Spring was discovered with the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory on January 3, 2013. Photo by Robert McNaught/RSAA.








Daily cosmobite: Mercury reaches inferior conjunction today

Published by Andrew Jacob on October 17, 2014 No Comments

Messenger.Mercury.NASA.pia17397Today the innermost planet, Mercury, passes between Earth and the Sun. This is referred to as an “inferior conjunction”. It will next be visible into the pre-dawn sky at the end of this month.



The Messenger spacecraft continues to monitor Mercury. The butterfly pattern of this crater’s ejecta results from a very shallow impact. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.





Daily cosmobite: Happy 40th Birthday AAT!

Published by Andrew Jacob on October 16, 2014 No Comments

AAT40thStarFest2014.AJThe Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), Australia’s largest optical telescope, was officially opened 40 years ago on October 16, 1974 by Prince Charles. Happy Birthday!




The Anglo-Australian Telescope dome all wrapped up for its birthday celebrations during StarFest, October 4, 2014. Photo © Andrew Jacob








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