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Stargazing at a World Record

Emily Allen

Next month, Canberrans will have the opportunity to make history in the astronomy world. Mount Stromlo Observatory and the Canberra Astronomical Society are hosting an event in an attempt to break two Guinness World Records – Most People Stargazing at a Single Site and Most People Stargazing Across Multiple Sites in a Country. Whilst the target for the Canberra event is 2,700, their Facebook event page suggests that this number could climb to 10,000.

The record attempt was originally to be held at Mount Stromlo Observatory however the overwhelming interest has sparked a move to Fellows Oval and surrounds at the Australian National University. The ANU Campus has agreed to turn out the lights around campus to keep it as dark as possible and National Geographic will be there on the night streaming the whole event live so if you’re unable to make it, you can watch from home (or anywhere in the world!).

The change of venue means that the organisers will be able to safely accommodate all patrons with ample free parking, public transport, food, drinks and entertainment making for a great stargazing experience.

Research Fellow and Outreach Manager (and event organiser), Dr Brad E. Tucker, along with his wife Emma, run the Public Outreach and Education Programs at Mount Stromlo. A self-confessed ‘crazy idea’ by Brad, he and his wife have wanted to attempt a record for some time.

“We have been running monthly Public Astronomy nights which have had great crowds – over 1,000 people on a night, and when we found no single site record existed and the national record was only 3,000 we thought we could beat this. The hard part was figuring out the work around of everyone looking through a telescope. With the ordering of small telescopes, we found a way to solve this,” says Brad.

The best way to participate in the event is to bring your own telescope. Don’t have your own? Or not enough for your whole family? You can order your own special World Record Stargazing telescope, and they’re only $5.50 thanks to the events’ wonderful sponsors (including Mount Stromlo Observatory, The Australian National University College of Science, The Canberra Astronomical Society, National Geographic, Space Environment Research Centre (SERC), ACT National Science Week, Monash University School of Physics and Astronomy, Centre for All Sky Astronomy (CAASTRO), The Anglo Australian Observatory (AAO), International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Outback Astronomy, Ballarat Astronomical Society, Sutherland Astronomical Society Incorporated and The University of New South Wales).

The super-easy-to-use telescopes will be 30mm in diameter, and will include adjustable focus plus a small tripod. There’s also a special raffle with all proceeds going to the Peter McGregor Memorial Scholarship Fund, tickets can be purchased at the same time as your telescope order.

“We want to do this to show that science and Astronomy is fun and anyone can do it.  Also, it is a good way to create a nice community event. People do not need to know anything about Astronomy or stargazing. Our Astronomers will take care of everything!  This is a chance for everyone to learn about Astronomy and get involved. We also want it to be a family event, so everyone can participate, have fun, and learn a bit about our amazing Universe,” Brad said.

The team have had a tremendous amount of interest so far. On top of the Canberra event, there will many sites across the country – Centennial Park in Sydney, private schools around Victoria, even sites in the Pilbara and Broken Hill. Currently standing at around 30 sites, they’re aiming for a total of 60 and hope to reach 20,000 attendees for the National Record.

“We want to make it so big no-one is crazy enough to attempt it again!” says Brad.

The evening kicks off at 6pm with talks by Brian Schmidt on the Universe, Charley Lineweaver on aliens and Emma Kirby on meteorites (plus more) held in the accommodating Manning Clarke Theatre. Some of the talks are even designed specifically to be kid-friendly, so it really is an event for the whole family!

The essentials

What: Mount Stromlo Observatory Stargazing World Record Night
When: Friday 21 August, 6:00pm
Where: The Australian National University, East Road Acton (various locations)
Join the event on Facebook for updates
Tickets: Ticket options including telescopes and raffle tickets can be purchased here.


Emily Allen

Emily is an arts administrator with a background in writing and music. By day, she works at the ANU School of Music, and by night she moonlights as a contributing writer, the Communications Coordinator and Secretary for MusicACT, and dabbles in freelance marketing, social media and communications for the arts. More about the Author

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