Neil's big step, Chris's giant leap

IT WAS one of those significant moments in history — people remember where they were when it happened.

Astronomy buff Chris Malikoff will never forget the day astronaut Neil Armstrong took those momentous steps in space.

"I was in first class and even then I remember thinking about the sheer inventiveness of man to get out there and do this in a region where they were not meant to be," he said.

"I remember my father and I discussing it when I was barely able to understand it but I distinctly remember him conveying the sheer brilliance of it."

And Mr Malikoff's interest in space hasn't wavered since. The computer-software designer was recently elected president of the Macarthur Astronomical Society, a group he joined six years ago.

"I've always been interested in the sciences and as far as astronomy goes it didn't occur until seven years ago but my interest in space never waned," he said.

He described the society as his haven ("so removed from my day-to-day life") and credits people like Copernicus and Galileo for "dragging astronomy out of the quagmire".

But don't confuse the terms astronomy and astrology - it's a pet hate of many of the 93 members, including Mr Malikoff.

One of his aims is to educate the public about the night sky. And one way is to continue bringing members' telescopes to schools for children to look through. "Kids avoid science as a subject at school and university and it's a real pity."

Yet the society's public astronomy nights are always a success with large crowds gathering to look through the telescopes at the night sky over Macarthur.

He said the society was searching for a location in Macarthur to build a new observatory because the domes at the UWS Campbelltown campus were being rendered useless because of the amount of light coming from increased student accommodation nearby.

"We're looking to build up our finances so we can build an observatory in Macarthur away from light sources."

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