WA’s astronomy boom to be celebrated at Astrofest’s 10th anniversary

International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research cosmic communicator Cass Rowles and PhD candidate Pikky Atri with a 10-inch Dobsonian telescope. Picture: David Baylis. d491312.
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research cosmic communicator Cass Rowles and PhD candidate Pikky Atri with a 10-inch Dobsonian telescope. Picture: David Baylis. d491312.

THE state’s largest astronomy festival has benefited from a boom in interest in the field as it prepares for its 10th anniversary.

Edinburgh Oval at Curtin University is set to be awash with a sea of telescopes on Saturday as Astrofest celebrates a decade of astronomical achievements.

Festival-goers will be able to create their own Lego telescopes, make their own rocket to launch, tour the universe in a SciTech space dome and listen to professional astronomers discuss their discoveries.

Astrofest organiser Kirsten Gottschalk said WA had witnessed an astronomy boom over the past 15 years and the festival celebrated the advances in the field.

“The State and Federal government have invested heaps in astronomy. If we go back to 2005, there weren’t many astronomers in WA and now there’s over 150, so it’s grown massively in the last 15 years,” she said.

“We’ve become this real hub for it globally, through all of the research from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, and AstroFest is all about celebrating this
great resource we have.”

Ms Gottschalk attributed the boom to the Square Kilometre Array telescope, which will be the largest radio telescope in the world when built.

Part of the telescope is proposed to be housed in WA and Ms Gottschalk said the vast expanses of remote land in the state made it the perfect location to stargaze.

“There aren’t many places left on earth you can do radio astronomy because mobile phone signals, Wi-Fi and radio stations interrupt radio telescopes from working, but Australia has a lot of places left like that still,” she said.

“In WA, we still have a beautiful view of the night sky and that’s a resource we want to exploit and share in this wonderful night sky we’re lucky enough to still have.”

The first 500 families through the event door at Astrofest will receive a special anniversary Galileoscope telescope to celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary.

For more information and to pre-register to be in a prize draw, visit their website.