Astronomical Observatory

The Association for Astronomy and the Department of Physics & Astronomy invite you to observe the cosmos with your own eyes at the Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory. You will be guided through the night sky by our professional astronomy staff, who will show you planets, binary stars, nebulae, star clusters, and even bright galaxies through our 16″ and 12″ professional in-dome telescopes. All are welcome!


Friday Night Observing Sessions

Observatory sessions in 2014 will be held every Friday night from late February to December inclusive (excluding public holidays). Sessions 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 online booking system to purchase a ticket. All prices are inclusive of GST.  If you get a student discount or book as an AfA member, you MUST bring your card to enter!

Date Session Time Tickets Observing Status
10 October 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Cancelled due to poor weather
17 October 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Observing is ON!
24 October 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Cancelled due to poor weather
31 October 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Cancelled due to poor weather
7 November 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Observing is ON!
14 November 2014 8pm – 9:30pm ended Cancelled due to poor weather
21 November 2014 8pm – 9:30pm Book Here Observing is ON!
28 November 2014 8pm – 9:30pm Book Here
5 December 2014 8pm – 9:30pm Book Here
12 December 2014 8pm – 9:30pm Book Here
19 December 2014 8pm – 9:30pm Book Here

 

Attending the observatory is weather dependent. A decision will be made by 5pm on the day as to whether the observing will go ahead or be cancelled. In either case, for regular Friday night sessions, it will be posted to Facebook, Twitter and on the table above. Full refunds are issued in cases of bad weather.

Please note that if we have less than 5 people booked in for any one session, the session will be cancelled and 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.  For enquiries, please email us at starinfo@mq.edu.au and we will get back to you ASAP.

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Bookings for Scout Groups

We offer concession rates for privately booked sessions for 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 Scout page.

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How to Get Here

The Observatory is located on the northern grounds of Macquarie University, on Gymnasium Road, near the corner of Culloden and Waterloo Roads. Once on Gymnasium Road, take the first left onto the N3 parking lot. The observatory is at the northeast side of the lot – you can’t miss it (see map). Parking is free for the first two hours with a ticket and free after 8:00 pm 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.

Click here for a map or here for a Google Map.

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Telescopes

  • 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.

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Teaching Activities

Radio Astronomy

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.

Optical 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.

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Research Activities

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.

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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.

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