Astronomy Open Night 2016

Astronomy Open Night 2016 was our biggest ever! 

With almost 2000 people in attendance, the Sky cleared the clouds away to show all who came the beauty of the Night Sky.

Macquarie University Astronomy Night

Saturday 14 May 2016, 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).



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. 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.

Parking Free parking is available after 6pm in the F3AF5AF5BC2 and  C3  car parks.
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

Fred Watson, Astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory

Congratulations Dr Einstein! Gravitational Waves Come of Age


The announcement last February that gravitational waves had been detected for the first time was greeted with unbridled enthusiasm in the world of physics and astronomy. But it left hosts of ordinary people bemused, and not a little baffled. What are gravitational waves? How were they found? Will we find more? And, above all, why is it so important? Great questions all, and ones that this entertaining and fully-illustrated talk will answer. Join astronomer Fred Watson as he lifts the veil on everything gravitational to reveal why this is one of the most significant discoveries of our time.

Location E7B Mason Theatre

Topic: Gravitational Waves


Fred Watson says he spent so many years working in large telescope domes that he has started to look like one. He has been an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory since 1995, and his main scientific interest is in the use of novel technology to gather information on very large numbers of stars and galaxies. Until 2009, Fred was based at the AAO's telescopes in Coonabarabran, where he was Astronomer in Charge. He is now the Sydney-based Head of Lighting and Environment, working closely with state and local government and the Coonabarabran community to preserve the dark skies of the observatory.

Fred has adjunct professorships at the University of Western Sydney, University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Southern Queensland.

Fred is well-known for his astronomy slots on ABC radio, and his books include "Stargazer - the Life and Times of the Telescope", "Why is Uranus Upside Down? and Other Questions About the Universe", (which won the 2008 Queensland Premier's Literary Prize for Science Writing) and the ABC's blockbuster, “Universe”, for which he was chief consultant.

In January 2013, Fred launched his most recent book "Star-Craving Mad, Tales from a Travelling Astronomer" featuring many highlights from his recent journeys around the world, exploring points of astronomical interest, and in 2014, he launched a series of light-hearted science lectures called Fred Watson Presents.

In 2003, Fred received the David Allen Prize for communicating astronomy to the public, and in 2006 was the winner of the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. In January 2010, Fred was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to astronomy, particularly the promotion and popularisation of space science through public outreach.

Information about the many tour programs Fred leads is at Fred Watson Tours and Events.

Fred has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won't be his fault...


Telescopes & Stargazing

Location E10 Car Park

Join Macquarie astrophysicists 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 E7B Courtyard and The Atrium

The Macquarie University portable Planetarium will be in operation this year! There will also be an additional two planetariums 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. Entry to any of the Planetariums will be available for a gold coin donation, payable to the Planetarium staff on the night. Please note that this gold coin donation is separate to the general ticket price for Astronomy Open Night.


Short Talks

Location E7B Theatres T2 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
 - Michael Cowley - Illuminating Black Holes
7:00 PM - Dr. Matt Owers -  The hostile environment of cosmic behemoths: Clusters of galaxies.

||| ~ Break for Illustrated Talk ~ ||| 

8:30 PMDr. Alex Arriola - On the Search for new planets in other Galaxies

T5 Theatre
6:30 PM - Dr. 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 - Professor Mark Wardle - Planet 9

||| ~ Break for Illustrated Talk ~ |||

8:30 PM - Dr. Caroline Foster - The Amazing Universe of the Backyard Astronomer
9:00 PM - Andrew Lehmann - Astrophotography in a Big City

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 E7B Room 100

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 Room 146

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

Kids Activities

Location E7B Room 163

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)

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:

  • Presse Cafe
  • Wicked Mexican
Food & Drinks

Light Years Ahead: Paula Dawson, Ian Milliss and Vernon Treweeke

Location Macquarie University Art Gallery, Building E11A
Open: 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm on Saturday 14th of May

Light is intrinsic to our lives, it directs the way we organise our thoughts, ideas, living and working spaces. Its restorative powers are unmatched and paramount to our daily survival. Light Years Ahead explores the interplay between light, shadow, space and time, presenting artworks rarely seen on public display.

At the forefront of light as art are three pioneering Australian artists that have experimented with its properties since the 1960s. Ian Milliss experiments with the everyday equipment of gallery lights, transforming them into a medium for art practice, creating dramatic and cinematic effects of iridescent apparitions of shadow. His early practice with lights altered the way audiences participate within the museum space. Paula Dawson’s powerful 3D holography effects establish a mirror to multiple worlds, building illusions of space and time, where light becomes the narrative of the past, present and future. Vernon Treweeke’s black light paintings transport us on a mystical journey of psychedelic madness, where the works are “turned on” to glow and expand within the darkness. The experimental nature of the artists in Light Years Ahead highlights the infinite and interactive possibilities of the gallery space, reinforcing the synergetic intersections of art and science.

In collaboration with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science

Curated by Rhonda Davis, Kate Hargraves and Leonard Janiszewski.

Dawson - Green - Hologram
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