This summer has indeed provided some interesting challenges, including a direct lightning strike that cut all power and phone communications in the week leading up to the annual public Summer Lecture. Thankfully, our facilities and maintenance crew of Ken Stranger (Facilities Coordinator), Rob Kennedy (Maintenance) and Cathy Hewett (Operations Manager) had us reconnected to each other and the outside world within a few days.
On the evening of Friday, 10th March, under a clear sky and bright moon, Peter Birch took us back to 1977 and the events leading to the discovery of the Rings of Uranus. The story revolved around a narrow window of opportunity to measure the changing light from a distant star as the planet moved across it. The discovery was made by combining data collected by Peter and his team at Bickley with data from NASA’s Kuiper Airborne Observatory as it flew over the southern Indian Ocean. We were reminded how much was achieved with so little computer memory, disk space and processing speed!
Among the audience at this year’s lecture were many trainees and graduates who have joined POVG since July 2015. Some are new to Astronomy, some are studying at tertiary level and some have a lifelong interest in planets, stars, galaxies and space travel. Thanks to Julie Matthews, Geoff Scott and our experienced presenters and telescope operators, each wave of trainees is shepherded through a program of weekly intensive sessions followed by mentored tutorship at public events.
We were proud to have 50 volunteers from POVG on duty at Astrofest on Saturday 18th March. They were all determined to enjoy the event in spite of the cloud cover that persisted until closing time at 9:30 pm, when as often happens in WA, the sky cleared to show Jupiter above the developing skyline of Curtin University’s Health Science and Medical Schools. All the groups within Astronomy WA who pool their resources for this event were rewarded for their hard work and long hours by the level of public interest and engagement – viewing or no viewing.
Back on the hilltop, we are looking forward to three special themed events in April and May. We do love retro dress-up opportunities such as Star Trek (5th April), Star Wars (4th May) and Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (25th May) when we invite dedicated fans to dress in costume and have fun, as they celebrate just how much of the science fiction of yesteryear is now a reality.
On the administrative side, at the General Meeting on March 20th members voted to adopt a significantly updated constitution to comply with new WA legislation for Not for Profits and Charities. This new set of “rules” will allow us to register to receive deductible private and commercial development funds to continue to showcase and expand Perth Observatory’s heritage and science outreach programs.