Perth Science Festival

This August saw ICRAR taking part once again in the Perth Science Festival. During National Science Week astronomy was on display for the 8,000 attendees, as ICRAR researchers and students discussed their work and answered astronomy questions from interested visitors.

The variety of activities at the stall attracted a very large crowd over the two days of the festival, where ICRAR research and radio astronomy was the focal point.

Members of the public spoke with ICRAR researchers about the Square Kilometre Array and the Western Australian pathfinder telescopes. Parents and children could design their own planet and have a hands-on experience with ICRAR’s tiny radio telescope. They could also interact with Gleamoscope (gleamoscope.icrar.org) and our infrared camera, learning how using different wavelengths of light can reveal hidden aspects of the Universe. The ICRAR stall also hosted two scientists from NASA who held impromptu talks about the future of space-flight.

Mt Magnet AstroRocks Festival

Interacting with people in regional Western Australia, and bringing hands on experience and knowledge of astronomy, is an important part of ICRAR’s outreach efforts.

One of the larger events we attend outside of Perth is the Mt Magnet AstroRocks festival in September. Every year Mt Magnet, 600 km north of Perth, opens its doors for a weekend of Astronomy and Geology. ICRAR takes a leading role in the astronomy side of the event, organising a forest of scopes and amateur astronomers for the day, as well as researchers to give talks about up-to-date research and the SKA—the Australian site is only 250km from Mt Magnet!

More than 300 people attended the event, half of them from Mt Magnet or nearby towns, but the other half coming from all over Western Australia, and as far as the east coast of Australia.

Those that attended the event were excited to see the dark skies only an outback town can give, marvelled at the Scitech space dome (an inflatable planetarium) and also enjoyed the 2018 Astrofest Astrophotography display, which showcases the best astrophotography talent Western Australia can provide.

The AstroRocks festival gives access to astronomy to people not able to get to Perth or other major centres and helps inspire regional young people to pursue an interest in STEM.

Pingelly Astrofest

Working in conjunction with The University of Western Australia Future Farms initiative, October saw ICRAR take part in the second Pingelly Astrofest. This bi-yearly event allows the public to visit the UWA Future Farm, just outside of Pingelly, and take part in a night of astronomy and science talks.

A number of amateur astronomers were available to show off their impressive scopes and experience for the public to enjoy and the 2018 Astrofest astrophotography display was also installed in the nearby sheep-shearing shed.

Patrons could enjoy the award winning Western Australian astrophotos while listening to the winner of the 2018 Young Tall Poppy Science Award, ICRAR’s Dr Luke Davies, discussing galactic evolution and dark matter. While the adults could be entertained and enlightened by Dr Davies, the children could enjoy the Scitech Science shows in the tractor shed and go inside Scitech’s amazing inflatable planetarium domes.

Though the weather during the day looked ominous, about 200 people bussed and drove to Pingelly for the event. They were rewarded with skies that cleared as the night progressed, giving great views of Saturn and Jupiter and other deep skies objects.

The Duke of York visits ICRAR

In November, Prince Andrew visited ICRAR’s University of Western Australia’s node for a briefing on the SKA project.

The Australian Federal Government has already invested more than $400 million in the project with a further $293.7 million earmarked under the National Innovation and Science Agenda for the SKA.

After the briefing, the Duke spent time talking to staff and students from ICRAR.

“We cannot forget that it is engineers who make the difference between where we are today and where we can be tomorrow,” HRH said.

“They are the actual builders, the problem solvers of what is to come. It’s only through investment in these sorts of facilities that the next generation is going to be able to learn the sorts of skills they are going to need.”

Report provided by ICRAR