Observations - news and views on astronomy from Sydney Observatory

2014-10-18 A Cultural Astronomy Event!

Published by Sydney Observatory on September 19, 2014 Comments Off

Saturday 18 October, 6 to 7:45pm
View of the islands of Hawai’I taken by the crew aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1988. Courtesy NASA. A Cultural Astronomy Event!
Of calendars and kings: gods, temples, the Pleiades, and social upheaval in ancient Hawai‘i

Hear from one of the world’s experts on cultural astronomy, Professor Emeritus Clive Ruggles, from Leicester University who has just returned from Hawaii where he has explored the astronomical significance of the polynesian culture. Then look through telescopes and find out about Australian Aboriginal astronomy in the planetarium with our local Aboriginal astronomers. Entry includes a glass of wine, cheese and biscuits. Pre-bookings are essential.
Cost: $20 adult, $15 concession (seniors and students);

Abstract from Professor Ruggles:
Astronomy occupied a prominent place within religious practices, navigation, and calendrical traditions in the Hawaiian Islands, as it did throughout ancient Polynesia. Uniquely in Hawai‘i, though, Polynesian chiefdoms became transformed into archaic states during the centuries following the end of long-distance voyaging. Archaeoastronomy, the study of beliefs and practices relating to the sky, is relevant to understanding the social, political and ideological factors that contrived to bring this about. In this talk I will describe my fieldwork with archaeologist Patrick V. Kirch studying the orientations of temple platforms and their connections with astronomy, the calendar, and dryland agriculture, and I will present some of our ideas of how these were linked to the emergence of “god-king” cults in the final centuries preceding the arrival of the Europeans.

2014-10-8 Total lunar eclipse

Published by Sydney Observatory on Comments Off

Wednesday 8 October, 8.00pm – 11.30pm

Enjoy great viewing on a total eclipse of the Moon from Sydney Observatory. The Moon will start to move into Earth’s shadow at 8.15pm and will be fully immersed by 9.25pm. Totality ends at 10.25pm with the Moon finally leaving the Earth’s shadow at 11.35pm. Snacks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate available for purchase on site. For ages 5 and over.
Cost: $59 family, $22 adult, $15 child; members $48 family $18 adult $12 child. 
BOOK NOW

2014-10-2 The Moon, the Myth and the Mystery

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Thursday 2 October, 6.00pm – 8.00pm

Ahead of the total lunar eclipse, join us for a night of stories about the Moon from around Australia. Meet our Aboriginal guides from various communities and learn some sky stories. Astronomy curator Dr Andrew Jacob will then explain why the Moon cannot affect our behaviour. Use our telescopes and your smart phone to take a great image of the Moon, weather permitting.
Cost: Usual night fees and members discounts apply: $18 adult, $12 child, $14 concession, $50 family. 
BOOK NOW

Astrograph Dome

Architectural drawing by NSW Government Architects.

A visionary project to build a third telescope dome at the Museum’s Sydney Observatory has received funding from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. Ageing, Disability and Home Care and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), to provide access for all to astronomical telescopes to view the stars and planets. This is the first in a series of blogs to keep you updated on progress.

This project brings back to Sydney Observatory an historic metal dome and a spectacular astrographic telescope (star camera) removed from the site in 1986. The telescope has been completely restored in the Museum’s conservation workshop and the dome is being restored by the NSW Government Architect’s Office, who have designed the building. The image above shows the architectural concept for the building which is now under construction on the eastern side of the entry to Sydney Observatory. This is the same location where the first and second astrographic buildings stood.

Astrograph dome

Steelwork is in place for the concrete slab to be poured. Photo G.Wyatt 18 Sept 2014.

The new building will be constructed of metal and glass and includes a lift right up into the dome and to the new telescope. The project is being managed by the Museum’s Facilities team and consultant, Pure Projects. The successful tenderer, Zadro Constructions Pty Ltd, commenced a detailed site survey in mid August. Despite record rainfalls over the past few weeks, they are running close to schedule. The image above shows the layout of the steelwork and you can see the circular shape of the domed section taking shape. Part of the concrete slab has already been poured which you can see front right of the above image.

Fitting the restored dome to the new building and ensuring it is operational is a very important aspect of the project and the image below shows the project team inspecting and measuring the dome. The Museum has purchased a very special telescope, with an articulated eyepiece able to easily adjust to different heights for easy viewing of the night sky for people in wheelchairs.  This is a major enhancement of access to the Sydney Observatory site, and will provide a first-class experience for all. Much consultation has gone into the selection of the telescope and how it will operate with the mechanisation of the old dome.

Astrograph Dome

Measuring the dome which is currently being restored. Photo T. Stevenson 17 Sept 2014.

Another exciting aspect of the project is that the new building will house an exhibition, developed by MAAS, titled ‘Accessing the Sky’ which will highlight Sydney Observatory’s participation in the 1887 Carte du Ciel (Chart of the Sky) and Astrographic Catalogue projects to photograph and chart the entire celestial globe. This was one of the most important projects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and one of the very first international partnership scientific projects. It will feature a spectacular historic Astrographic telescope. This telescope was made by the Irish firm Howard Grubb, an important instrument maker and you can read about its history and restoration in a previous blog. This telescope was first used to photograph the Melbourne Zone of the Astrographic Catalogue before Melbourne Observatory closed and, under Harley Wood’s instruction, the telescope was relocated to Sydney in 1948. The exhibition also tells the story of the first women to be employed in astronomy in NSW through the display of a star measuring machine used from 1916 by Ida Digby and Irene Maud McDonnell.

This project has been part of the Museum’s master plan for Sydney Observatory since 2006. It is in keeping with the Conservation Plan (Kerr 2002) and  has NSW Heritage Department, as well as Council approval.  It is very exciting to watch the vision for this project become a reality. The new building with its dome and telescope are on track for practical completion in December 2014.

Astrograph Dome

Susan McMunn, MAAS Facilities team, and Carmine Strangis, Zadro Constructions, measure the dome.

 

Astrographic Done

Andrew Jacob, MAAS Curator, and Geoff Wyatt, MAAS Educator checking out the runners for the dome shutter.

Something Strange In The Sky Today

Published by Melissa Hulbert on No Comments

Calls started early this morning about a strange round object in the sky. At first it was hard to pin-point the exact location as direction of the object relative to the Sun and Moon were different depending on the caller’s location. We had reports of it to the north, south, east and between the Sun and the Moon.

Sydney Observatory staff located the object high in the south western sky (as seen from our location) and took a peek first with binoculars and then in the telescope. The result is seen below in this image captured by Geoff Wyatt on his compact camera. The object appears to be a weather balloon.

It’s wonderful to see Sydney-siders are such good observers of the sky both day and night!

Causing quite a stir over Sydney this morning was this weather balloon. Image Geoff Wyatt © MAAS, Sydney

Causing quite a stir over Sydney this morning was this weather balloon. Image Geoff Wyatt © MAAS, Sydney

The third so-called supermoon for 2014 is about to happen.  Supermoon is when Moon is at perigee to Earth. An eight year old explained perigee to me the other day. He said this is when the Moon is close to the Earth because of the slight oval path it takes around our planet. That was a pretty good explanation which he had learnt last supermoon. Geoff Wyatt, Sydney Observatory education officer says supermoons occur when Earth’s celestial neighbour comes up to 50-thousand kilometres closer to us thanks to its elliptical orbit. You can see how slight the ellipse is in this You Tube clip.

If you are the early bird, look west Tuesday morning, 9 September, before Moon set at 5:02am.  That evening Moon will rise at 17:59 AEST and, if the weather is clear, look to the east.

supermoon

Supermoon photographed by Stephanie Hough, winner of the junior section of the David Malin Awards 2012.

There are some common questions we get when there are supermoons:

Does supermoon mean super tides? On Monday 8 September  at 19:33 there was a high tide of 1.9metres, tomorrow it will be a little smaller reaching 1.88metres at 20:23. These are ordinary tide heights around the full Moon, and many months when there is not a supermoon the high tide exceeds these measurements.

Does supermoon mean there will be werewolves? There is no evidence that this has occurred on a full or a supermoon, but if you see one please let us know only if you have non-refutable images of it and the supermoon.

If supermoon can teach 8 year olds the meaning of the word ‘perigee’ then it’s worth singing about: ‘Shine on, shine on supermoon ….’.

PS: Daily cosmobite astronomy curator, Dr Nick Lomb, is having a break so please excuse the less regular blogs. We will try to keep you informed regularly.

10_Full Moon_May 2014_Nick Lomb

The Full Moon in May 2014, photographed by Dr Nick Lomb.

Daily cosmobite: the best telescopes site 2

Published by Nick Lomb on September 6, 2014 No Comments

6_Dome C_UNSWRecent research indicates that the world’s best spot for a telescope is a frozen plateau in Antarctica known as Dome C. In winter observing is possible from there for 24 hours a day, the sky is dark and the air above is still and dry. Astronomers are planning to put a medium size telescope at the isolated site.

Dome C in Antarctica. Courtesy University of New South Wales

Daily cosmobite: Voyager 1 anniversary

Published by Nick Lomb on September 5, 2014 No Comments

5_Voyager 1 launch_NASANASA launched its Voyager 1 spacecraft on this day in 1977, two weeks after its sister craft, Voyager 2. Voyager 1 is now over 19 billion kilometres from Earth and still sending back information to ground stations including the one at Tidbinbilla near Canberra.

The launch of Voyager 1. Courtesy NASA

Daily cosmobite: the best telescopes site 1

Published by Nick Lomb on September 4, 2014 No Comments

4_AAT_Nick LombAstronomers using large research telescopes need locations away from bright lights so that the sky is dark. They also want few nights ruined by cloud and the air above the telescope still so that there is little blurring of the image. So what is the world’s best site? Answer Saturday.

Australia’s largest optical telescope, the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory. Picture Nick Lomb

Daily cosmobite: Mars landing anniversary

Published by Nick Lomb on September 3, 2014 No Comments

3_Viking 2 image_NASANASA’s Viking 2 Lander touched down on Mars on this day in 1976. This was about six weeks after the landing of its sister craft, the Viking 1 Lander. The two landers gave people on Earth the first views of the surface of the red planet, as well as conducting experiments on the makeup of the planet’s soil and atmosphere.

Viking 2 on the surface of Mars. Courtesy NASA/JPL

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