Astronomy Open Night

Astronomy Open Night

AON 2017

Saturday 20 May 2017, 6:30pm – 10pm, E7B Courtyard

The Macquarie University Association for Astronomy (AfA) and the Department of Physics & Astronomy are proud to present the annual Macquarie University Astronomy Open Night. The AfA was established in 1988 by Dr. Alan Vaughan to promote astronomy outreach to the public, enabling various parts of the astronomical community to interact, and encouraging teaching and research in astronomy and astrophysics at Macquarie University. This has made the Astronomy Open Night one of the most treasured events on the Macquarie University astronomy calendar over the past 25 years.

Please join us for an incredible evening of astronomy, astrophysics, photonics, astrophotonics and all things physics – including a large outdoor area full of telescopes, where you can observe celestial objects for yourself! Weather permitting, there will be up to 30 telescopes aimed at the glittering night sky, operated by both Macquarie University astronomers and amateur astronomers alike. Meet and chat with real-life astronomers, observe stars, planets, nebulae, star clusters and much more, and discover the night sky like you never have before!

Activities include:

Open Night Details


E7B Courtyard, Macquarie University. The Campus can be reached by car or by train (Macquarie University Station is on the Northern Line).


Campus Map:


Tickets are available for purchase online.

Please bring your printed ticket or (preferably) digital ticket on your smartphone/tablet, to check in when you arrive. All ticket barcodes will be scanned upon arrival, so please ensure that all members of your group have access to their own ticket (especially for those buying multiple/group tickets who will be arriving separately). If you are purchasing a Family ticket, all 4 members of your family (2 adults + 2 children) must arrive together, as you will only be issued with one ticket.

Earlybird tickets are available online until midnight Sunday 8th May. Limited tickets will also be available on the door, at the following rates:

Adult – $20.00 on the door
Child – $12.00 on the door
Concession – $14.00 on the door
Family – $48.00 on the door (2 adults + 2 children)

Please note that it is CASH ONLY on the night and there are LIMITED Tickets on the door, so get your tickets online.

Parking Free parking is available after 6pm in the F5F5C2C3 , X3 and W4 car parks.

parking map

Here is a link to the campus parking map:
Weather The evening will not be cancelled in the event of bad weather, although the telescopes will not be available if it is very cloudy. But don’t worry, there will still be plenty to do!!!


Illustrated Talk @ 7:30pm

Professor Matthew Bailes
Pro Vice-Chancellor at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Director of the OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence

Title: The Relativistic Universe

Abstract: 100 years after Einstein's completed his masterpiece, the General Theory of Relativity, astronomers used an amazing apparatus (LIGO) to detect the gravitational waves from two merging black holes a billion light years away as, for a brief fraction of a second they outshone every star in the Universe put together!

In this talk, Professor Matthew Bailes, the Director of the Australian Research Council's Centre for Gravitational Wave Discovery, will
describe how astronomers observe the relativistic universe, and the astonishing systems it contains.

Location E7B Mason Theatre

Biography: Professor Matthew Bailes is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and the leader of the Pulsar and Fast Radio Burst (FRB) research group at Swinburne and is the theme leader of the Dynamic Universe as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence CAASTRO. He founded the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne in 1998 and served as its Director for the first 12 years. His research mainly concerns developing instrumentation for time domain astrophysics and using it for pulsar and FRB discovery in conjunction with his many collaborators in Australia, Europe and the USA. He is the Australian lead of the 100M Breakthrough Listen project to search (intelligently) for the existence of Extra-Terrestrial life with the Parkes 64m radio telescope in collaboration with the CSIRO and Berkeley. From 2017 he will lead the MeerTIME project that will use the new MeerKAT telescope to time radio pulsars as part of an international collaboration. His team developed a supercomputer for the 50 year-old Molonglo telescope to transform it into a pulsar timing and FRB discovery machine as part of the UTMOST project.

prof matt bailes 

Telescopes & Stargazing

Location E10 Car Park

Join Macquarie University astronomers and local amateur astronomers and explore the cosmos using various telescopes from Macquarie University Observatory, local astronomy clubs, and individual astronomers.  Look at celestial objects such as planets, star clusters, and nebulae, talk to members of your local astronomical society, and join in the action!

Several telescope vendors will be present and eager to answer all your questions about buying your very own telescope.

Telescopes & Stargazing


Location The Atrium

The Macquarie University portable Planetarium will be in operation again this year! There will also be an additional two planetariums all located in The Atrium. The three planetariums will be running in conjunction all night long, so there is plenty of opportunity to experience the wonders of the Universe through one of these fantastic domes.


Short Talks

Location E7B Theatres T2, T3 and T5 (Level 3)

The Macquarie University Astronomy Research Centre is pleased to present a series of short talks given by our astronomers and physicists. These talks are aimed at the general public and amateur astronomers and present the diverse range of interests that are present in our growing Astronomy Department.

The schedule of Short Talks will run as follows:

T2 Theatre
6:30 PM
- A/Prof Danny Terno and Valentina Baccetti “Q & A: everything you always wanted to know about gravity and quanta (but were afraid to ask)”
7:00 PM - Adam Batten “Death Stars and Vengeful Planets”
||| ~ Break for Illustrated Talk ~ ||| 
8:30 PM - Cormac Purcell “Magnetism, from the Earth to the Cosmos”
9:00 PM -  Mikaela Tanttu “Stellar Formation”

T3 Theatre
6:30 PM - Andrew Lehmann“Studying Astronomy – your ticket to the world and beyond”.
7:00 PM - Suraya Amini & Emily Hegarty “The Macquarie University Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park Project - Preserving the Night Sky”
||| ~ Break for Illustrated Talk ~ |||
8:30 PM - Devika Kamath "Who's Cooking What in the Cosmic Cauldrons?"
9:00 PM - Ellen Houston - “Studying Astronomy – your ticket to the world and beyond”.

T5 Theatre
6:30 PM - Orsola De Marco “Pocket Astrophysics: what you need to know about the universe to negotiate your every day on Earth”
7:00 PM - Prof Mark Wardle “The Sleeping Monster at the Centre of the Galaxy“
||| ~ Break for Illustrated Talk ~ |||
8:30 PM - Anthony Horton “Huntstman”
9:00 PM - Stefania Barsanti “The Giants of the Universe: Clusters of Galaxies”

To see video from some of the Short Talks from 2016, click on the following link: AON Videos 2016

Short Talks

Aboriginal Astronomy

Documentary Screening: Star Stories of the Dreaming

Don’t miss this special screening of the documentary Star Stories of the Dreaming, which will be run in a loop for the duration of the evening.

Location E11A Chancellery (Art Gallery)

Synopsis Ghillar Michael Anderson is an ANU-trained lawyer who worked for the U.N. First Peoples program in Geneva for many years. He returned to Australia some years ago, and settled on his Euahlayi family’s country on the Bogan River outside of Goodooga in northwest NSW. His Euahlayi heritage stretches back beyond written history, and he is the cultural keeper of knowledge passed down from grandfathers to grandsons for uncounted generations. In working with a research project that Bob Fuller* ran from Macquarie University into the astronomy knowledge of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi peoples, he provided much previously unrecorded knowledge about the culture of these language groups and the relation to the sky. An outgrowth of the project was the development of a documentary by Eleanor Gilbert showcasing Michael’s knowledge, and including some interesting conversations with Dr. Ray Norris, a CSIRO radio astronomer, and a founding member of the current research groups into Indigenous Astronomy.

Aboriginal Astronomy

Robotics Demonstrations

Location E7B Numeracy Centre

Come and drive one of the world-championship robots from the FIRST Robotics Competition.  This program will allow all from ages 5+ to earn their Robotics Driver’s License in a fun and exciting hands-on activity.

Robotics Demonstrations

Activities Room

Location E7B 163/164

Come along to see the children’s activity room, suitable for all ages!

Kids Activities

Vendors & Clubs

Location E7B Courtyard

Our indoor courtyard will be full of fun and exciting stalls from the local astronomical community, where you can chat about astronomy, science, studying astronomy/astrophysics/physics/photonics at Macquarie, getting in touch with your local astronomical society, what telescope to buy and much more! The following vendors and clubs will have stalls at our Astronomy Open Night:

Vendors & Clubs

Food & Drinks

Location Food Court (The Atrium) & Central Courtyard

There will be a number of food vendors open for the evening in The Atrium, where we will also be running additional astronomy activities. The following food vendors will be open for the duration of the event:

  • Press Cafe
  • Wicked Mexican
  • Trinhy’s (vietnamese cusine)
  • Monster Rolls
Food & Drinks

Physics Magic Show

Location E7B Mason Theatre

Come and see the magic and mystery of Physics with our entertaining presenters utilising their powers of physics for good!

This will be taking place before and after the main talk, at 6:30 pm and 8:45 pm.


Laser Guide Star

Location Eastern Road

A Telescope’s Optometrist ....

The good thing about earth based telescopes is that we can make them big - really big - collecting more light, seeing more detail and feinter objects than ever before. In the near future we may be even be directly imaging planetary systems around nearby stars (not just using the transit or ‘dip’ method). But one of the problems with pushing the boundaries with big telescopes is the same thing that makes the stars twinkle… our turbulent atmosphere. When looking at stars with big telescopes, this twinkle is magnified to the point that the stars can be moving around dramatically, smearing their light out across the camera or instrument being used to image and measure them. The technology making it feasible to build bigger and bigger earth base telescopes -(Australia has a 10% share in the Giant Magellan telescope) - is called Adaptive Optics. There many different ways of making adaptive optics systems, but the goal for telescopes is simple: undo the effects of the atmosphere, put ‘glasses’ on the telescope, and take the twinkle out of the stars.

For an adaptive optics system to work well, the atmospheric turbulence needs to be regularly measured (several times per second) to get the ‘prescription’ for the telescope’s glasses. One of the best ways of doing that is creating a ‘perfect’ artificial star in the upper atmosphere, and observing how the turbulence is moving it. A guide star laser does this by exciting the sodium atoms in the mesosphere, about 80km up, which then glow, creating our artificial star. Guide star lasers are thus usually yellow lasers, tuned onto the sodium lines (the same orange-yellow colour of old street lights). Powerful yellow laser are expensive, sophisticated lasers, so for Astronomy open night, we will be demonstrating the spectacle of shining a bring laser through the atmosphere using powerful green lasers used for research at the University.

Australia engineers are playing an important role in helping design the Adaptive Optics and Guidestar systems for the GMT. A conference article from Professor D’Orgeville and team (ANU and Mount Stromlo), maybe viewed here

Guidestar lasers are already in use at 8meter telescopes facilities such at the VLT in Chile, with the latest upgrade being a 4 beam system commissioned last year.


The laser beam of the VLT Laser Guide Star facility in operation, at the VLT site in Paranal, Chile. Image taken in January 2007.

Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer

Laser Maze

Location: E7B 200

Patrons get to test their spy skills by navigating through a laser maze! The maze is setup by reflecting three red lasers off a number of mirrors. Blocking a laser beam triggers the alarm!


Laser Graffiti

Location Eastern Road

A great way to show your artistic side without the mess of paint and paper. This amazing effort by the OSA Macquarie Chapter can be seen in the video to the left.

Don't miss out on your chance to make some laser art!

Art Gallery Exhibition - Into Abstraction II

Location: E11A Chancellery (Art Gallery)

A Macquarie University exhibition in partnership with Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary

Curators: Rhonda Davis and Kate Hargraves

The second part of this exhibition series explores the legacies between the original and hybrid forms of abstraction in relation to contemporary practice. Current tendencies have opened-up the arena of abstraction prescribing narrative and meaning with interconnections – Western Modernism and Aboriginal art shaping different approaches that have brought abstraction to the fore once again.

Find us in the Art Gallery Foyer; sponsored by the Department of Educational Studies, Opening Real Science (ORS) and STEAM Education Australia and Intercultural STEAM Project Funded by Australia-Korea Foundation. Experience how to code the stars surrounding ‘Emu in Sky' game. Make a sparkling coloured origami star on a stick and your own secret ‘glow in the dark’ chatterbox shapes. Suitable for all children.

Organisers: Bronwen Wade-Leeuwen, Robyn Moloney, Hye-Eun Chu, Phil Chan

Helpers: Liling, Alex lynch, Stefanie Vianello, Olivia Swain

dept of ed




Explore the Surface of Mars

Location: E7B 100

- A 3D Mars experience in Virtual Reality
- Watney's projected virtual tour of the Martian surface

Back to the top of this page