The Association for Astronomy (Department of Physics & Astronomy) invites you to observe the cosmos with your own eyes at the Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory. View planets, moons, binary stars, star clusters, nebulae and bright galaxies through our newly upgraded 12″ and 16″ professional in-dome telescopes. You will be guided by our trained astronomy staff, so please come prepared with any astronomy questions you may have!
Monday & Friday night observing sessions
Observatory sessions in 2016 will be held every Monday and Friday night from January to November inclusive (excluding public holidays). These sessions will run from 8pm – 9:30pm during daylight saving, and 7pm – 8:30pm during the rest of the year. Daylight saving in New South Wales begins on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.
Bookings are essential: all tickets for admission are sold online. We do not accept cash at the door! Please visit our Eventbrite page to purchase a ticket, or simply follow the links shown in the table below. Tickets are available for Adults ($13), Children/Concession ($9), Children Under 5 (free), and Families ($35). All prices are inclusive of GST.
Please note that attending the observatory is weather dependent, as we unfortunately cannot see the stars if it is cloudy and/or raining. A decision will be made by 5pm on the day as to whether the observing session will go ahead or be cancelled. In either case, an announcement will be posted to our Facebook page. Full refunds are issued in cases of bad weather.
If your observing session has been cancelled due to poor weather, you will receive an email notification confirming that your 100% refund has been issued. Please allow up to five (5) business days for your refund to be transferred back into your account.
Unfortunately if we have less than 5 people booked in for any one session, the session will have to be cancelled and the tickets will be eligible for either a transfer to the following week’s session or a full refund, at the ticket holder’s discretion. In this case, ticket holders will be contacted via email by 5pm on the day of the event.
You can find tickets here.
Bookings for school and scout groups
We offer concession rates for privately booked sessions for School and Scout groups, as well as reduced/free admission for Scout leaders. We are able to tailor events so Scouts of all levels and ages can learn what they need for their astronomy and space badges. For more information, please visit our School and Scout page.
How to get here
Location: Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory (map), Building W16A (end of N3 car park), off Gymnasium Rd, Macquarie Park NSW
The Astronomical Observatory is located on the northern grounds of Macquarie University, off Gymnasium Road, near the corner of Culloden and Waterloo Roads. Once on Gymnasium Road, take the first left onto the N3 car park. The observatory is at the northeast side of the lot – you can’t miss it. Parking is free for the first two hours with a ticket and free after 8pm without a ticket.
A “Pay and Display” ticket must be acquired from the machine in the N3 car park. Without entering any coins, press the OK button to obtain your two-hour free parking ticket to be displayed on your dash. Parking fees for daytime parking in excess of two hours are strictly enforced and heavy fines are levied for non-payment.
- 16″ Meade Telescope – Effective focal length: 4064mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 150x. The telescope is used for public viewing on Friday nights and is used for group visits and research on other nights of the week.
- 12″ Meade GPS Telescope – Effective focal length: 2670mm, Magnification with standard 26mm eyepiece: 100x. This telescope is also used on Friday nights, and for group visits.
- 8″ Celestron C8 – Used on nights with very large groups.
- 8″ Dobsonian – Used on nights with very large groups.
- 3.2-metre radio telescope – May be operated remotely from the physics computing laboratory on campus.
What did you see?
Here is a repository of what was viewed through the Telescopes on our Public Nights.
|Friday, June 24th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Antares, Canopus, Jewel Box, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon|
|Thursday, June 23rd, 2016||Observatory - Private Booking||Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Jewel Box|
|Friday, June 10th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Butterfly Cluster, Omega Centauri Cluster, Moon.|
|Thursday, June 9th, 2016||Observatory - ASTR170 Session||Jupiter, Mars, Saturnm Jewel Box, Omega Centauri, Alpha Circini|
|Monday, May 30th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Jupiter, Beta Centauri, Alpha Centauri, Jewel Box, Butterfly Cluster, Omega Centauri, Mars, Saturn|
|Friday, May 27th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Jewel Box, Omega Centauri, Eta Carinae.|
|Thursday, May 26th, 2016||Observatory - ASTR170 Session||Jupiter Saturn Mars Jewel Box Alpha Centauri, Omega Centauri.|
|Tuesday, May 24th, 2016||Observatory - ASTR170 Session||Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Jewel Box, Omega Centauri, Sombrero Galaxy, Alpha Centauri and Moon.|
|Friday, May 20th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Jewel Box and Omega Centauri.|
|Friday, May 13th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Jupiter, Omega Centauri, Saturn, Mars, Jewel Box and Alpha Centauri.|
|Friday, May 6th, 2016||Observatory - Public Regular||Omega Centauri, Jupiter, Mars and then Saturn.|
|Thursday, May 5th, 2016||Observatory - Private Booking||M42, Jupiter, Saturn, Jewel Box, Omega Centauri, Alpha Centauri.|
There are many places online to find out more about the objects viewed at our Telescopes. See the links below for more information:
This webpage will also let you know what is up in the nightsky locally by inputting your location.
The 3.2-metre radio telescope at the observatory is a small dish, suitable for observing the Sun. With radio astronomy we do not see an image, as with an optical telescope, but can map the signal strength in different directions on the sky. The main purpose of the radio telescope is to educate students in the basics of radio astronomy.
Several of our astronomy units have an observing component, where students visit the observatory at night to observe various astronomical objects. This program has also now been expanded to include use of our new CCD camera for astrophotography.
Undergraduate Units in Astronomy
MRes and PhD Research Projects
From time to time, post graduate projects are conducted at the observatory. Optical astronomical equipment used in conjunction with the telescopes includes CCD cameras for imaging and photometry, and a single-fibre spectroscope for obtaining object spectra. For more information please go to the Higher Degree Research Page for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
History of the Observatory
The Macquarie University Observatory was originally constructed as a research facility but, since 1997, has also been accessible to the public through its Public Observing Program on Friday nights. The Observatory saw a record crowd on the night of 29th August 2003, with 667 visitors attending to observe the Opposition of Mars.
The Observatory was first opened in 1978 at a different location. The Association for Astronomy was established in 1988 by Dr. Alan Vaughan to raise funds for further development of the observatory, which was moved to its present site in the early 1990s. The second dome, which houses the 16″ Meade telescope, was opened by Professor John Loxton on 3 May 1997. Construction of this dome was funded by Macquarie University and the Foundation for Astronomy (now the ‘Association for Astronomy’).
The Public Observing Program was operated from 1997 until the end of 2001 by a privately-operated business: Southern Skies Mobile Observatory. From 2002-2011, the Public Observing Program has been operated by astronomy undergrad and postgrad students. Much of this work was voluntary. As of 2012, the observatory is operated by trained staff through the revamped Association for Astronomy.
Unfortunately observing through the telescopes is reliant on the weather being optimal for the session to go ahead. We use multiple sources to predict the weather which are shown below:
Bureau of Meteorology
Radar loop for the local Sydney area produced by the Bureau of Meteorology. A lot of data on this website that is useful for predicting the local forecast.
This website also has an app for iOS and Android and contains a lot of useful information such as Cloud Coverage, rain indicator and an indicator of any passovers by the International Space Station. By simply choosing your location (the link above is for Macquarie Park) you can get the local forecast and all the other information needed to decide on your observing likelihood. Click here for a guided tour of the website.
Norwegian Meteorological Institute
Another website that give a handy forecast of the local conditions in regards to cloud coverage and rain. Created by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and also having a place to enter a location (North Ryde is the choice in the above link), you can get a fairly accurate prediction of the local weather.
Astronomy Weather Information
Obvious images show the conditions for observing at the location selected (Macquarie Park in link above)
This website shows the star map of your location (Macquarie University uses Lat: -33.78 Long: 151.12) for any time you enter. Quick and easy to show what astronomical objects may be visible from your location.