Monday, January 27, 2014

To Canberra and back Part 2 - Coonabarabran

Coonabarabran is the closest town to what now appears to be called the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Spring.  I also see that it is run by Australian Department of Industry (?), which is a bit of a worry given that the Abbott government's anti-science minions are scrapping around looking for cost cutting exercises.

The 30 odd km drive up to the observatory from town is very pleasant, but the whole area suffered a major bush fire a year ago.  Here's one business that survived, apparently, although there is a distinct lack of the product on display:

If you click to enlarge, you can see the burnt trees on the hills in the distance.  There is a vast area that looks like that.

On upwards to the observatory:

It was unharmed in the fire, although some staff accommodation was burnt.  The fire clearly came right up close to it, though, when you see some of the photos below taken from the base of the main observatory building.

I have been here once before, around 1990 or 1991 I think, and to be honest, I don't think the visitor centre has really changed at all.

It could well do with a revamp, although I must say that one of the simplest things, a large photographic negative of an immensely packed star field in the Milky Way with which you had to use a magnifying glass to see the thousands of stars, impressed them quite a bit.  

The viewing level inside the dome allows for some pretty good shots of the telescope itself:

But even if you have little interest in what they do there, the view from the base over the observatory over the Warrumbungles National Park is pretty good.  (If you don't like the scroll effect, just click on it for the whole, stitched panorama):

Notice how the burnt trees are often re-growing leaves along all of their trunks?  It's an odd look.

Here's a simpler shot, which only looks good if you click on it.

So, the place is well worth visiting, and the National Park looks as if it would be good too, but perhaps not in the middle of summer, and not this trip.

By about 11.30 we were back on the the road to Parkes, and the next science-y installment.

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