Astrofest a stellar success

Presenters at the 2014 CWAS AstroFest, from left – Fr Paul Clark (CWAS President), Rev Colin Mackellar, Dr David Malin, Cr Ken Keith (Mayor, Parkes Shire), Professor Warrick Couch and Dr Stuart Ryder. Absent are Mike Salway and John Sarkissian. (Photos: Denis Crute) Winners of the 2014 CWAS David Malin Astrophotography Awards, back from left – Bratislav Curcic, Gillian Kelaher (on behalf of her son Grahame), Mike Salway, Stefan Buda, Peter Ward, Dr David Malin, Paul Haese (overall winner), Alex Cherney, Greg Gibbs, David Fitz-Henry and Saeed Salimpour; front – Marcus Davies, Robert Kaufman, Andrew Wall, Greg Priestley, Brad Le Brocque and Phil Hart. Absent – Steve Couch, Judith Conning, David Hough, Stephen Mudge, Russell Cockman, Julie Fletcher, Michael Goh, Stephen Humpleby, Grahame Kelaher, Erik Monteith and Matthew Vandeputte.

Over 100 prominent professional and amateur astronomers and astrophotographers gathered in Parkes from all over Australia for last weekend’s 2014 Astrofest.

They included five leaders in their fields, each celebrating various aspects of Australia’s massive contribution to astronomy and space exploration.

One of the truly iconic pioneers in astrophotography judged the winners in a competition that attracts hundreds of the finest astrophotographs from across Australia, many of whom will go on to become prominent internationally.

It may not have attracted the huge numbers of volunteers that the Elvis Festival attracts.

However, last weekend’s 10th anniversary 2014 Central West Astronomical Society Festival of Astronomy (or CWAS AstroFest) was a huge success by any measure.

Whether at the fascinating talks throughout Saturday, the AstroFest dinner and announcing of the 2014 CWAS David Malin Astrophotography Awards on Saturday evening or the activities at the Parkes Radio Telescope on the Sunday morning, last weekend’s CWAS AstroFest yet again demonstrated that it is one of the significant annual events in Parkes and the Central West.

Last Saturday, Mike Salway, founder of the popular Ice-in-Space astrophotography website started the conference by giving a fascinating talk about how to take better nightscape photographs (combining the night sky with interesting foreground subjects).

Colin Mackellar then explained the proud and important history of Australians in keeping astronauts safely in communication with Earth from the very beginning of the American human space program but especially during the Apollo years.

It is worth remembering that “The Dish” is more than a warm-hearted movie and that some of the men who courageously kept the Parkes Radio Telescope pointing toward the Moon in difficult conditions still live in Parkes.

Dr Stuart Ryder then went on to explain how Australia continues to play an important part in some of the mega-telescopes being built around the world, and how we are designing and supplying technology that will help these new observatories make crucial ongoing discoveries about our Universe.

Parkes Shire Mayor, Councillor Ken Keith hosted a civic reception to welcome the large group of visitors to Parkes before the keynote John Bolton Lecture, a prestigious presentation given each year in memory of Dr John Bolton, world-leading radio astronomer and first director of the Parkes Radio Telescope.

This year’s John Bolton Lecture, “The AAO at 40 Years: Looking Back to Looking Forward” by Professor Warrick Couch, Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) was a fascinating look at the work done by the famous Coonabarabran observatory throughout its 40 year history.

The conference dinner on Saturday evening included the announcing of the 2014 CWAS David Malin Astrophotography Awards by the world-pioneering astrophotographer.

The AstroFest continued at the Parkes Radio Telescope (The Dish) on Sunday with a talk by the Dish’s John Sarkissian where he separated some of the fact from fiction regarding how the movie portrayed Parkes’ involvement in the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

John is well qualified to give such a talk.

His name appears in the movie’s credits as one of its main advisors.

Sunday also saw the opening of a year-long exhibition of the winning CWAS David Malin Award winners at the Parkes Radio Telescope Visitors’ Centre as well as an opportunity to safely observe the Sun and various stars and planets through a range of specially designed safety telescopes.

If readers missed this year’s AstroFest, they are most welcome to come to the next monthly meeting of the CWAS at the Visitor Centre of the Parkes Radio Telescope from 7.30pm on Friday, August 1.

Further details can also be found on the CWAS website

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EDITOR’S NOTE; we featured the overall winning image from Paul Haese -Gas and Dust – in Wednesday’s edition.

This magnificent image of the Orion Nebula was the overall winner of the 2014 CWAS David Malin Astrophotography Awards.

Next summer, when you look at the middle “star” of Orion’s sword (or the middle “star” in the handle of “The Saucepan”), consider that you are actually looking at this spectacularly massive cloud of gas that stars are being born in.

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