Who could have predicted that the outbreak of a new virus, reported back in January, would go on to wreak so much havoc worldwide?

When we sent our last Perth Observatory Volunteer Group newsletter in March we were unsure how COVID-19 would impact our upcoming events. Now we’re emerging from lockdown and it feels like it’s been a lifetime without night sky tours. It was practically heartbreaking when we couldn’t open our doors for events celebrating Star Trek First Contact night, Star Wars Day, or even Towel Day.

Luckily, Matt Woods is a tech genius and has been selflessly and tirelessly running virtual events twice a week, with talks on Thursday nights and Virtual Sky Parties every weekend on YouTube, informing everyone “what’s up” in the sky. Even better news is that he’ll continue to host weekly YouTube events.

Others in the astronomy community have also been taking their events online, including Australia’s Astronomer-at-Large, Fred Watson, presenting webinars on astronomy.

Back down to Earth, while the observatory hasn’t been open for tours until this month, we’ve been keeping busy, our R-COP telescope has been working overtime contributing to scientific research, and our Lotterywest projects have achieved a lot, including a refreshed kitchen.

Thanks to Paul Wadham and the project team, our Astrograph telescope has been brought back to life, with its remaining pieces in place and its brass work is gleaming like a mirror.

Recently, Dr Beatriz Villarroel — a theoretical physicist from Stockholm University — got in touch with Perth Observatory, to discuss her academic paper and Perth Observatory’s glass plate collection.

Dr Villarroel is behind a citizen science project using our Astrographic plate scans to search for vanishing and appearing stars. You can join in with the project here.

In other “while you were locked down” news, we’re delighted to report that the 33rd Governor of Western Australia, the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, has accepted our invitation to become a Patron of the Perth Observatory Volunteer Group.

As many of you know, Mr Beazley became WA’s current governor on May 1, 2018, and has long been a supporter of Perth Observatory, including attending the historic opening of Worl Wangkiny back in March. The last three months have been hard for everyone, but now we’re open for Winter Sky Tours once again and — in the immortal words of Professor Brian Cox — things can only get better.

I look forward to seeing you all soon on the hill at Bickley.

Dr Colin Armstrong