Hervey Bay astronomers reach for the stars

By Jocelyn Watts

The overwhelming success of the solar eclipse viewing on USQ Fraser Coast’s grassed area in November has inspired the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society to “reach for the stars” with more viewings and events. There is also talk of possibly building a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

 “We had a lot more people than expected attend the transit of Venus and partial eclipse in November, and after lots of positive feedback we’ve decided to hold more events this year to flag our existence and encourage more members to join us,” society president Joe Mather said.

“It has also strengthened our long-term dream to build a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

“That’s a fairly ambitious dream so we need to gauge the level of interest first, then its viability and investigate possible funding sources.”

The initial part of that process is to hold a series of public events, the first of which is an astronomy night this Saturday (May 4) from 5.45pm to 8.30pm in USQ Fraser Coast’s car park at 161 Old Maryborough Road, Hervey Bay.

“The evening will start with a 10-minute presentation in a lecture hall, while there is still some light in the sky to show pictures and explain what we are attempting to find. Then we will show people how to use averted vision techniques to see distant galaxies and gas nebulae when normal central focusing shows nothing in the eyepiece.”

Mr Mather said Mayor Gerard O’Connell, councillors and other VIPs would be invited to attend the evening with their families.

“We encourage families to make a night of it and bring along fish and chips or other snacks to eat.”

Following this Saturday’s event, local dignitaries and state and interstate professionals will be invited to attend the society’s observing nights at Robert and Jan Jocumsen’s Takura Observatory and its monthly meetings.

“The observing nights are held on Saturdays closest to a new moon and begin with a short workshop on fixing/aligning/repairing astronomical telescopes, followed by a barbecue and chin-wag while the scope temperatures stabilise. Then we enjoy many hours viewing deep space nebulae, remnants of dead stars, globular clusters and whatever else we can find.

“Our meetings are held in USQ Fraser Coast’s Room C205 at USQ on Wednesdays, two weeks after Observing nights.

“Besides presentations on astro-photography, latest NASA discoveries and Astral DVDs, we encourage members to pass on any specialised knowledge they have to the rest of the group such as servo-controlled telescopes which automatically point to thousands or astronomical objects held in their data-bases, or Wi-Fi control using Planetarium software running on smartphones and/or tablets, or just plain telescope maintenance.

Meeting dates can be found at the group’s website at http://www.hbastro.net, along with pictures of past nights, shots of the Takura Observatory and examples of long time-base and stacked shots of deep space objects.

WHEN: Saturday, May 4 from 5.45pm to 8.30pm.

WHERE: USQ Fraser Coast, 161 Old Maryborough Rd, Hervey Bay.

COST: Free, but gold coin donations to cover costs are most welcome

For more information log into www.hbastro.net, email info@hbastro.net, or phone 0419 461 532.

 

Hervey Bay Astronomical Society

From a casual group of observing enthusiast in 2008 to incorporation as the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society Incorporated in January 2010, the group has retained deep interests in the cosmos, night sky observing, the science of astronomy, and astro-photography.

Hervey Bay Astronomical Society holds one dark sky observing session and one education night each month, as well as special public events such as the November Solar Eclipse Viewing at USQ Fraser Coast.

Group membership varies from beginners to advanced astronomers but all have the same passion for astronomy and teaching others about the wonders in the day and night skies.

Interested people are welcome to attend a meeting to assess if it is something from which they could enjoy and learn information they can pass on to others.

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