People waiting at our viewing are for the record attempt. Image Credit: Zal Kanga-Parabia

On the 23rd of May, over 40,000 people across Australia pointed their telescopes to the heavens and together shared in a world record experience. Organised by The Australian National University and ABC’s Stargazing Live, presented by Professor Brian Cox and Julia Zemiro, Perth Observatory hosted the largest star party in Western Australia with over 350 people in attendance.

While our stargazers settled into their assigned coloured sections, feasting on gourmet food truck delicacies and rugging up for the big night, our volunteers had started the process of directing traffic, counting people in, handing out telescopes and making sure they were set up correctly and pointing at the correct target, The Moon. Being the largest star party in the West, had its perks with ABC’s news reporters and photographers snapping up media pics and interviews with our stargazers. The icing on the cake was The Perth Observatory being part of the live feed, boasting our beautiful observatory, our clear night sky and our excited guests to the rest of the country.

Our viewing area from the Lowell Telescope Dome during the record attempt. Image Credit: Roger Groom

As the time approached our stargazers settled into their sections ready for the start time. With Brian Cox and Julie Zemiro projected onto the astrograph wall, our 350 strong audiences pointed their scopes onto the moon for 10 minutes of dedicated star gazing. Whilst all eyes were on the moon, a team of Volunteers counted the scopes and encouraged the audience to stay on target by reminding everyone of the time left and filling the crowd’s heads with interesting facts about our moon. As the 10 minutes came to a finish there was excitement and smiles all around, wondering if a new world record had been created.

ABC's Pamela Medlen doing a live cross for the Stargazing Live program. Image Credit: Zal Kanga-Parabia

As the crowd started packing away their telescopes, the volunteers at the observatory started shifting their scopes away from the Moon and onto some familiar objects for our guests to look at. The crowd was treated to a mini night sky tour viewing Jupiter and Saturn through our larger telescopes. The rest of our volunteers were busy tallying up numbers and finalising film footage to send to the Guinness World Record committee, hoping that our contribution was enough to break the record.

The original record “Most People Stargazing – Multiple Venues” was set by the Australian National University (ANU) on August 21st, 2015 with 8,000 stargazers. On the 23rd of May 2018 that record was broken with 46,345 stargazers all looking at the Moon through a telescope for 10 minutes. Not only did we beat the record, we absolutely obliterated it. Well done to all of our participants and volunteers for an amazing night and we are looking forward to smashing that number in a few years time.