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Siding Springs Observatory

If you like gazing up at the stars, or have even a passing interest in the science of astronomy you have to visit the ANU Observatory site at Siding Springs.

At 1,165 meters (3,800ft) above sea level in the Warrumbungle region of North West NSW, the site is home to more than 50 telescopes operated by research companies and organisations from all around the world.

While you can’t just wander up and stick your nose in as you please, there is an information centre and they do operate tours most days so you can learn more about what’s going on.

On our recent camping trip to the Warrumbungle National Park, Rai and I timed it to be around for their annual open day – the October long weekend. A very popular day with enthusiasts coming from all over Australia, and why not? Siding Springs is home to the ANU’s largest reflective telescope the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) with it’s insane 3.9 meter reflective dish this telescope was ranked as the fifth highest impact telescope in the world and is considered the most productive optical telescope in its class.

On our visit we sat in on a number of lectures from leading researchers in their field and each session got more and more packed because people were reluctant to leave. I admit most of it went well over my head but two stuck with me.

The first was a presentation on how the indigenous Australian peoples used the stars not only to navigate but also to determine and forecast the seasons. This knowledge was told as stories and passed on orally as they had no written language.

The second and possibly the most complex was a presentation, or rather a detailed examination, of how the elements of the periodic table were all created as a result of the Big Bang. The presenter went through each and every element explaining what conditions were required to bring about its structure and the order in which each, dependent on the appropriate condition being available, appeared.

A side benefit to this monumental structure, which I am sure is completely unintentional, is you can see it from just about anywhere in the region which is great if you are lost and need to find a bearing. Just look for the big white dome on top of the mountain.

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