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Volunteer for the "Deeper, Wider, Faster" astronomical survey!

The Deeper, Wider, Faster astronomical survey is currently running a campaign (based at the University of Melbourne but involving people from many institutes, including Swinburne) and they are looking for volunteers with an interest in astronomy to assist during working hours (they already have volunteers for other times) for days through to August 7th.

This survey is looking for transient phenomena using a number of ground and space based telescopes and the volunteers will be trained to evaluate incoming images that have been detected by supercomputers and flag real detections for further investigation.

You can give just an hour of your time, or as much as you are able to, and you'll be able to say you've worked on a real astronomical survey and if you're *really* *really* lucky you'll be able to say you played a part in a discovery.

There isn't a lot of public information about this survey but the recent CSIRO "Australian Telescope National Facility" Daily Astronomy Picture has a (more technical) description of the project here:

To participate see your email and look for the message from Ray with the subject "Mt Burnett Observatory EXTRA", it has contact details for the person who is coordinating volunteer efforts.


Crowdfunding the new MBO Dome & Telescope

The Mount Burnett Observatory is fundraising for a new dome and telescope, and as part of that we are running a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe!  Please do try and help us out.


Mount Burnett Astronomical Society wants to install a Sirius 3.5 dome and telescope.

With the success of the observatory we are finding that our facilities are no longer capable of matching public demand. The original 18 inch telescope which was installed in the 1970’s was never designed for large numbers of the viewing public. It is accessed by a narrow, steep stair which restricts people with mobility issues. There is no wheelchair access. The telescope itself was not designed to be used as a viewing telescope, and to actually look through the lens can involve perching precariously at the top of a ladder. Use of the telescope is limited by the nature of the design of the scope and a lack of computerisation. A new Go-To telescope will allow the citizen scientists of Mount Burnett and our partner schools to once more do research on the mountain.


The Sirius 3.5 dome is a ground-floor-access, computerised dome that would improve our ability to meet public demand, provide greater accessibility and develop our astrophotography capability. The Go-To telescope will be suitable for advanced viewing projects.


MBO members astrophotography wanted for Astrophotography Exhibition at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

The exhibition Seeing Stars: Astrophotography from the Dandenong Ranges will be presented in the Chambers Gallery of the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum from 29 October 2016 – 29 January 2017. The exhibition coincides with another exhibition that will be on display at the Museum at the same time called Science on the Move from Questacon in Canberra.  The museum has asked MBO for astrophotography from MBO members for use in this exhibition!

Photographs may include the following scenes;

  • Deep Sky

  • Wide Field

  • Nightscapes

  • Solar Systems

  • Animated Sequences (Scientific, Aesthetic)

The Museum would like to include a range skill levels, ages ( including juniors) and also a range of equipment used.

Images must be in TIFF or JPEG format and should be at least 3MB in size. The files must also be named as directed on the entry form.

To participate members are asked to read the guidelines in the entry form, complete the form and submit it with up to 3 photographs on a USB to Mount Burnett Observatory at a Friday night “Members Night”.

Photographs must be submitted by Monday 8 August 2016.

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MBO at Scienceworks with CAASTRO for "Capturing the Cosmos" planetarium show launch

On Monday MBO was invited to bring our Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope tile to Scienceworks as part of the invitation only premiere of "Capturing the Cosmos", the new planetarium show that the Melbourne Planetarium and CAASTRO have been working on for the last 2 years.  We linked up with the Telescopes in Schools project as well as Ben Mckinley and Jack Line from the University of Melbourne (two radio astronomers who use MWA) plus, of course, CAASTRO and Scienceworks to make this happen.

The Sunday before was our March working bee at MBO and myself, Lindsay (who leads the MBO radio astronomy group) and Anthony (our secretary) met up to load up the MWA tile and the newly acquired wire mesh (thanks to Wiebke Ebeling from CAASTRO!) for it to sit on and shipped it all across Melbourne to Scienceworks to be stored until Monday morning.

On Monday I met up with Peter from MBO in the city and to travel to Scienceworks.  Arriving at 9:30am we met up with Kylie from CAASTRO and Jack from the University of Melbourne and proceeded to unbox and construct the telescope, joined shortly after by Jacinta from Telescopes in Schools and Ben Mckinley from UoM.

This was the first time we were able to have a Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) in each of the 16 antennas that make up the tile (huge thanks to David Emrich from Curtin University for that) and so we were able to demonstrate the tile with the all inputs of one polarisation connected - in this case the X polarisation.  We fed the X polarisation output from the beamformer into a R820T2 Software Defined Radio (SDR) received plugged into a Linux laptop running the open source gqrx software and then proceeded to show that there are very good reasons why MWA is out in the middle of the desert in Murchison Shire in Western Australia (population ~120, population density 0.002303/km2).

Currently we cannot control the delays on the beamformer inputs so we demonstrated it in its default state of looking straight up.  Despite that we had a really good reception of ABC Classic FM (and other radio stations) which would have been coming in from a transmitter effectively on the horizon.  You will notice that the software is tuned at 105.9 MHz, which is right in the band that MWA is interested in (80 MHz through to 300 MHz) and a very good signal despite the tile having a beam looking at 90° to the source.

That evening we were joined by the MBO outreach team in the form of Heike, Sue and Lachlan to provide extra support for the launch guests. The official launch event itself was well done with Dr Nurin Veis (manager of Scienceworks), Dr J. Patrick Greene (CEO Museum Victoria), Professor Elaine Sadler (director of CAASTRO) and the unmistakeable Professor Brian Schmidt (Nobel laureate, CAASTRO member and VC of ANU) all speaking in between the two invitation showings of the planetarium show (to which we we were able to go to the second).

The show?  It was my first time to the Melbourne Planetarium and I can say I was impressed - whilst I was familiar with a lot of the content it was very well presented and very accessible and the choice of Geoffrey Rush as narrator was spot on.  Go see it - it's now open around Australia!

- Chris Samuel