I've spent the last week trapsing around NSW, starting at the Central West Astronomical Society's 2009 Astrofest in Parkes - home of 'The Dish' (better in HD!):
This year, though, was much more than just a small Astrofest for keen amateur astronomers. On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, the CSIRO and Australia Telescope National Facility staff were celebrating the role the Parkes Radio Telescope played in relaying the live footage of those first moments on the moon. Five of the staff working at The Dish at the time were there to tell their tales, and the dish was open to 7000 people from all over the state and even further afield who waited up to three hours for an inside tour. I snuck in late on Sunday when the crowds had died down!
The CWAS Astrofest includes the David Malin astrophotography awards (nicely sponsored by Canon :-). David Malin is possibly the world's most recognised astrophotographer, having spent a career working at the Anglo Australia Telescope in Coonabarabran, pioneering the production of colour images of the skies using long exposures on large monochromatic photographic plates taken through colour filters. Among his hectic schedule of public engagements, he judges these annual awards. [The full results will be published on the CWAS website shortly].
I was fortunate this year to pick up the Solar System prize for a picture of the 'Smiley Face' conjunction behind the clock tower in Sale, East Gippsland from November 2008 and an honourable mention for an image of Comet Lulin (thanks Neil for the loan of the 5D2!). I also picked up honourable mentions in the Wide Field category for the Gum Nebula and a star trail over bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes:
Here are several other images I submitted which did not make it to the awards: the Rosette Nebula, some twilight images (the open theme this year) a meteor over Mt Macedon and a shorter exposure of the bioluminescence which involved dunking camera and tripod in the salt water of the Gippsland Lakes!
Congratulations especially to CWAS for putting on such a cracking event and to all the astrophotographers for an inspiring set of images. I feel for the planetary imagers like Paul Haese who deserve a competition in their own right as their 'uber' technical skills are not necessarily getting the recognition they deserve here.
I spent two nights after the Astrofest staying at Cookamidgera and getting some nice images and timelapse sequences under the dark Parkes skies - thanks Clive! Shortly before I left for Parkes, I was invited to give a presentation with work in Sydney, so I went straight from Parkes to Sydney for a two day workshop. Thursday night I caught the train back to Cootamundra, crashed for the second half of the night and then drove back to Melbourne on Friday - what a week!
And I'll finish with my new favourite quote, from the back of David Malin's new book 'Ancient Light' (a collection of black and white astrophotography):
I have the loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night
Galileo Galilei, a little under 400 years ago