With beautiful Spring days, wildflowers and clear skies, we look back and marvel at the enthusiasm and engagement of so many who came along to our winter night tours. Often despite cold, cloudy days, participants were rewarded by a break in the clouds and some of the most amazing views of stars imaginable. Our event hosts and telescope operators who were there, confirm that winter viewing on a clear cold night is the best there is and this winter season with early start times we had the added thrill of having four planets to explore through our telescopes.

This August we were enthusiastic participants in the Science Week festival at Claremont Showgrounds with our booth being really popular and our Astroshop science-themed books and activities in high demand. At the same time, we were honoured as one of four finalists in the Science Engagement category of the Premiers Science Award. Attending the awards ceremony enabled us to showcase Perth Observatory as a living museum and promote our public engagement program to the academic science community. Our congratulations to the category winner, Rio Tinto Naturescape in Kings Park. Interestingly we were the only volunteer-run organisation to enter any of the categories in this prestigious competition.

Along with tours and events for adults and families, we run School Day Tours for primary school children who attend as a class with their teachers to enjoy hands-on activities and site tours. They use simple telescopes, make sundials and learn about the essentials of survival on the moon, among many other curriculum-based activities specifically designed for their age group.

Just this week, we were again rewarded for a huge effort in preparing detailed applications, for the official Australian Tourism Accreditation and then for the Perth Airport Tourism Council of WA’s awards. In Fremantle on Thursday, we became one of five finalists in the “Tourist Attractions” category of the awards, with the category winners to be announced in November.

We are so pleased to be emerging as a tourist destination, with many people dropping by during office hours to find out more about the many viewing options. Some are pleased to discover we have regular Night Tours each weekend bookable via the website, with others more interested in special events such as star adoptions, exclusive night tours, guided day tours and our open afternoons on the first Sunday of each month.

Recently we were also pleased to welcome UK visitors Trevor and Kate Dunn to a night viewing and post-viewing soiree. Trevor was the first chairperson of POVG and drafted our first constitution in the late 1990s. We wish Trevor and Kate a wonderful Aussie outback holiday and event filled retirement, hoping they will return to WA to visit the Observatory again soon.

As we continue to expand our volunteer base in response to increasing demand by our loyal customers the second recruitment and training program for 2018 is now in full swing. In a few weeks, they will be ready to participate in tours and complete their training ” on the job” over the busy summer season. Our next volunteer intake will be in March 2019, so if you’d like to join us, please send an expression of interest via https://www.perthobservatory.com.au/become-a-volunteer.

Wherever you are located, I hope you enjoy reading the astronomy and space stories in this Spring Equinox edition of the Perth Observatory Newsletter presented by the talented POVG “vollies”. Please also note our hints about what to look for in our skies at this time of year.

Diana Rosman
(POVG Chairperson)