Dharawal observatory plan gets thumbs-up, but council wants more details

MACARTHUR Astronomical Society has been buoyed by the broad community support it has been getting for its proposed observatory in Dharawal National Park, near Wedderburn.

As reported in last week's Advertiser, the facility would not be built on pristine bushland but rather on the old North Cliff Colliery site in the centre of the park.

Society president Chris Malikoff said he was excited about the prospect of rehabilitating a "scorched earth" site and using it for scientific and educational purposes.

Because of the high elevation and light-free environment it would be a beautiful spot to do some stargazing, Mr Malikoff said.

The site is still under lease to BHP Billiton, pending restoration.

But, if successful, the society would seek finance to erect two observatory domes and a cabin.

Astronomical society president Chris Malikoff said a detailed briefing will be given to the Macarthur branch of the National Parks Association next week.

Mayor Sue Dobson said Campbelltown Council was still waiting to see the proposal in detail.

"I'd be quite prepared to meet with the astronomical society," she said. Mr Malikoff said the observatory would be far more than a "club house" where local amateur astronomers might gather.

"Optical and electronic equipment used by amateurs has developed very rapidly," he said.

"We're producing optical photographs of the stars that rival and often exceed those produced by large installations a decade ago.

"Today's amateur astronomer can produce and collect data that is actually very useful to these professional outfits. Work of scientific merit is absolutely possible."

A Dharawal Observatory might contribute a range of data:

■A weather-monitoring station could provide data to the Bureau of Meteorology along with data from instruments to monitor the quality of our night sky;

■Variable star observations, to play a crucial role in understanding the universe. Dharawal Observatory could send data to the American Association of Variable Star Observers;

■Comet discovery;

■Supernovae discovery; and

■Planetary foreign body collisions. (Anthony Wesley, an amateur from NSW recently made world news when he photographed the aftermath of a collision between a large foreign body and Jupiter's atmosphere).

In coming weeks the Advertiser will look at other possible uses.

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