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Monday, December 23, 2019



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Courses have concluded for 2019.

Watch this webpage for details of the courses for 2020.


During courses, sessions run from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm as follows:

6:30 pm to 7:15 pm:  Observing through the telescope.

7:15 to 8:15 pm:  First session.

8:15 to 8:45 pm:  Supper and chat.

8:45 to 9:45 pm:   Second session.

9:45 pm on:  Observing the planets (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn) if available.


A fundamental part of each course is using the Observatory's 20-inch Ritchey-Chrétien robotic telescope.  Click here to see some of the views photographed through our telescope, which you will be able to enjoy live.



On Thursday, April 13, 2017 the skies were clear and we observed the Great Nebula in Orion, the multiple star Rigel, the Eta Carinae Nebula and the globular cluster Omega Centauri. The rising Moon put an end to observations at about 8 pm.


On Thursday, May 4, the Moon was near First Quarter. The following image was acquired at 6:44 pm and processed within five minutes in the presence of the participants:

The eastern end of Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains). The crater at the centre of the top margin is Callippus. The largest crater in the image, with two smaller craters inside it, is Cassini. Below Cassini and above the bottom margin is Aristillus, a fine crater with a cluster of small mountains at its centre. A tiny craterlet only 3 kilometres across is on the right margin about 30% of the way up from the bottom. This is Linné, a very recent impact which is surrounded by a light-coloured halo of ejecta. The centre of the image is mostly filled with mountain massifs, which separate the Mare Imbrium in the west from the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) in the east.

On Thursday, May 25 2017 the skies were clear and seeing was above average. Good views were had of Jupiter, Saturn, the binary star Algieba, the globular cluster Omega Centauri, the spiral galaxies Messier 65 and Messier 66 in Leo, the largest star known VY Canis Majoris, and the quasi-stellar-object (QSO or quasar) 3C-273.

At the conclusion of the evening, the following picture of Saturn was acquired:

The ringed planet at 10:48 pm on May 25, 2017. There are three main rings. Ring A is on the outer edge. The brightest, Ring B, lies inside it, separated from Ring A by a dark gap 4800 kilometres wide called the 'Cassini Division'. Inside Ring B is the dusky Ring C or Crepe Ring, which is only plainly seen where it crosses the bright globe of Saturn. Ring A also has a gap around it, but it is much thinner. Called the 'Encke Gap', it is only 325 kilometres wide and can be seen in the image above. The globe of Saturn has a diameter at its equator of 120 536 kilometres. Being made up of 96% hydrogen and 3% helium, it is a gas giant, although it has a small, rocky core. There are numerous cloud bands visible. At upper right, the shadow of Saturn's globe can be seen falling across the Rings. At bottom centre, the southern hemisphere of the planet can be seen showing through the gap of the Cassini Division. The ring system extends from 7000 to 80 000 kilometres above Saturn's equator, but its thickness varies from only 10 metres to 1 kilometre. The Rings are composed of 99.9% water ice.  




Our end-of-year get together for 2016 on December 14.  Present were:
Back row:  Tim and Lyn, Bernie
Middle Row:  Lee, Richard and Helen, David, Sandra and Ray
Front Row:  Mark, Michael and Dee, Peter and Sandie, Rose and Toni

Our end-of-year get together for 2019 on December 22.  Present were:
Back row:  Margarete, Bernie, Annette, Susheela, Lee, Tim and Lyn
Front Row:  Peter and Sandie, Rose and Toni

Commemorative $1 coin produced in 2019 to celebrate the work of Annie Jump Cannon, an astronomer born in the state of Delaware and active at the Harvard Observatory in Massachusetts between 1896 and 1941. The coin shows her silhouette and a cluster of stars. Cannon developed the Harvard-Draper system of classifying the stars according to the lines in their spectra that is still in world-wide use today. Using her system, our Sun is classified as G2 V  (the 'G' means that it is a yellow star, with a surface temperature between 5300 and 6000 K. The '2' is a subdivision of type G on a 10 point scale, narrowing down the temperature to 5770 K. The 'V' category was added in 1943 by William Morgan, Philip Keenan and Edith Kellman of the Yerkes Observatory, and indicates that the Sun is a main-sequence dwarf star.





The images below were taken during the 2013 Introductory Course in Astronomy.









AActivities of our friends



Susheela, a Starfield Observatory regular of long standing, enjoys a chat with astrophysicist Professor Brian Cox OBE in Brisbane on Sunday, November 9, 2014.



Some of our course participants go on overseas trips. Astronomical places of interest have been high on their lists of things to see.
We were very happy to receive the following pictures which are reproduced here with permission:

Ayla and Robin in the Harrison Gallery at Royal Greenwich Observatory. John Harrison's first 'sea-clock' H1 (the first marine chronometer) is behind them, with H2 and H3 in the background. Over 250 years old, they are still keeping time.

 The works of H4, Harrison's historic Watch, which was the first chronometer that could be easily carried about. Its case and dial are currently on display until October 30 at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney, along with replicas of the sea-clocks.

The information about H4 as seen in the background of the previous picture.



Mark regularly sails around southern England and the Channel. He took this image from his yacht of the Scilly Isles, low lying islets off the south-west tip of England, where the greatest maritime disaster of the age occurred in 1707 when the British fleet struck rocks. Of the 21 ships, four were sunk. It was due to a navigation error in longitude by the Vice-Admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovell, whose own ship the HMS Association went down in three or four minutes. Over 1400 men, possibly nearly 2000, were drowned and many bodies were washed ashore on the Isles. There were only two survivors, one being Sir Cloudesley. A local legend has it that a woman picking over the debris found him stretched out unconscious on the sand, and saw that he was wearing a large emerald ring. Unable to remove it, she cut off his ring finger with a knife, then, as he began to moan, stabbed him to death. She admitted this act to a clergyman many years later when on her deathbed, and contritely handed him the ring as an act of penitance. It is claimed that the second survivor said that, a few hours prior to the wreck, a member of the crew had pointed out the error to Sir Cloudesley, but he had the man hanged from a yard-arm for mutiny just before the ships struck.  It was this disaster that stirred the British government to offer a prize of  £ 20 000 to anyone who could solve the navigation problem of accurately finding longitude from ships at sea, a prize that prompted John Harrison to create his wonderful chronometers.  The Scilly Isles are now protected by the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, seen on the horizon near the left margin. 

This year Mark is a competitor in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race which begins on Boxing Day next week. His boat is called Mister Lucky, and he sailed it from Brisbane to Sydney in the last three days.  Its sail number is RQ3600.  Readers can follow the progress of the yachts during the race by clicking  here

Mark outside the Herschel Museum in Bath, England.

Mark at the Lovell Radio Telescope, Jodrell Bank, near Manchester.

Mark at the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666, central London.

Looking down the interior shaft of the Monument, once the world's longest telescope with a focal length of over 60 metres. The treads of the spiral stairway are made of black marble to act as light baffles.


Michael and Dee visited the Jantar Mantar Solar Observatory in India.

A large sundial at Jantar Mantar.

The sundial is accurate to a matter of seconds.


In 2016 there was an exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney called "Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude". It celebrated the development in the 18th century of various means for sailors to determine their ship's position at sea. Operating replicas of John Harrison 'sea clocks' mentioned above were on display - they need to be wound once each day. The exhibition was visited by the writer on September 27, 2016, where the pictures below were obtained.
The exhibition concluded on October 30, 2016.

A modern replica of John Harrison's H1, the original of which was started in 1730 and completed in 1735. Note the two swinging dumbbell pendulums which enable the clock to be moved in any direction without its regularity being disturbed. H1 is made mainly of brass, for steel would rust at sea. It is 63 cm high and weighs 34 kilograms. It has some parts in the escapement which are made of lignum vitae, a hard wood which is so dense that it will not float in water. This type of wood was used as it is self-lubricating. H1 was trialled by the Royal Navy on a trip to Lisbon on HMS Centurion. On the return journey on HMS Orford, H1 saved the lives of all on board by revealing a navigation error made by the ship's officers which would have led to shipwreck had not Harrison alerted them to their mistake. Yet he felt that H1 could be improved, and on reaching London safely began work on H2.

Replicas of Harrison's H2 (front) and H3 (background). H2 is larger and heavier than H1, and is 66 cm high and weighs 39 kilograms. H2 also has dumbbell pendulums and was completed in two years, but Harrison was dissatisfied with its performance and moved on to H3.

Harrison's builder's plate on H2 and dedication to King George II.

Replica of H3 with perspex front panels to enable the internal mechanism to be observed. Instead of dumbbell pendulums, Harrison has used a pair of heavy, oscillating balance wheels, one above the other. Harrison was trying to reduce the size of his sea clocks, so H3 is 59 cm high and weighs 27 kilograms.

 H3 took John Harrison 19 years to build, from 1740 to 1759, but he was never completely happy with it and never asked the Board of Longitude to test it.  He always referred to it as "my curious third machine".

 He carried a pocket watch made to his own design by his assistant John Jefferys, and began to think that maybe a portable 'sea watch' might be possible instead of the heavy and bulky sea clocks. A portrait of Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne can be seen in the background.

In an amazing change of direction in 1760, Harrison put aside the great sea clocks and designed a 'Sea Watch', which was based on his pocket watch but was larger and heavier, and incorporated all of Harrison's ideas regarding escapement, temperature compensation, stability etc. It is known as H4, and has a diameter of only 13 cm and weighs just 1.45 kilograms. Captain Cook carried a copy of it by Larcum Kendall on his successful voyage to the South Pacific, when he discovered the east coast of Australia in 1770 (the Board of Longitude was not prepared to risk H4 by sending it around the world). Cook gave great praise to the Watch, recording in the ship's log that it was "our trusty friend" and "never-failing guide". The case, dial and hands of H4 are shown above at the Sydney exhibition. They are the authentic items. The mechanism at right is a modern replica, as the Royal Greenwich Observatory preferred to keep the original mechanism in England, where Ayla and Robin saw it (see above).

The story of John Harrison and his life-long journey to solve the longitude problem by developing accurate marine timekeepers is told in Dava Sobel's book 'Longitude'.  'The Illustrated Longitude' is a better buy as it is a large, sumptuously illustrated book. The story was made into a movie 'Longitude' in 2000. It stars Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon.  Another book, 'Finding Longitude' has been produced by the Royal Greenwich Museums and also is large and lavishly illustrated. All the above are available for surprisingly low prices from, and are highly recommended.


Susheela with Professor Brian Cox OBE in Brisbane on November 4, 2017.


Starfield Observatory friends Sandie Safton and Peter Cowan enjoyed a year's travelling overseas during 2019. They visited Jantar Mantar Observatory at Jaipur in India in mid-November 2018, where they saw this Krantivrtta (declination circle/ecliptic).

They also saw this Yantra Raj (description below).


Sandie admires William Herschel's telescope, which he used to discover the planet  Uranus  on March 13, 1781. It has a metal mirror of 6.3 inches (160 mm) diameter, and a focal length of 7 feet (2.13 metres). He built the telescope himself, casting the mirror in his workshop from an alloy of 68% copper and 32% tin with a little antimony. He ground his own eyepieces.  To discover Uranus he used a magnification of 227 x.

Herschel's workshop and workbench. It was here that he cast his mirrors. On one occasion the mould cracked, and molten metal spilled onto the flagstone floor. The flagstones shattered from the heat, pieces flying in all directions like bullets. The damaged flagstones are still in position, and can be seen in the lower left-hand corner. The story is told on the white card, which is enlarged below.


Peter at the Greenwich Observatory in London, now a museum.


They saw "The Far Side of the Moon" - a display at the Greenwich museum. 




Download the freeware planetarium program 'STELLARIUM' by clicking  here.

One thing it includes that regular sky software doesn’t, is the ability to call up constellation pictures from different civilisations which are quite interesting. 

There are two toolbars which appear when the mouse pointer is moved to the lower left margin and the left bottom margin. Select your location from the list – Brisbane is close enough. The time should be your current time, but you can change it to anything you want. Change your location to New York or London to see the northern skies, or to Hobart to see the Southern Cross circumpolar (change the month to December to see this best).   The exit button is on the horizontal toolbar, at far right.


Click  here  to download freeware Virtual Moon Atlas.

Early (but artistic) star atlases may be examined here - click on 'COLLECTIONS'




Programs for 2020 Courses


Each unit in a Course runs for eight weeks, one night per week. Numbers are limited to ten to ensure that all have adequate telescope time. Ages: 17 years and older (students between 12 and 17 years may participate if accompanied by a parent). Bookings will be taken on a ‘first come’ basis. See below for details, email us or phone  5441 1014. 


There will be courses for those just starting out in astronomy, those who seek a deeper awareness of what appears above our heads, and a course which explores how we have reached our present understanding of the universe. The next series of courses is beginning in late March, 2018. The first one will be Unit 3 of the General Course. Bookings are now being taken.



How each night is organised


Each night is split into three segments:

6.30 pm - 7.30 pm:        If the sky is clear:  Learning the names of stars and constellations. A laser-guided sky tour is provided. This is followed by observing through the Observatory's telescope.

7.30 pm - 8.15 pm:        Powerpoint presentation indoors (using digital projectors) covering the night's topic  -  first half

8.15 pm - 8.30 pm:        Supper and conversation (tea, coffee and biscuits provided)

8.30 pm - 9.00 pm:        Powerpoint presentation indoors  -  second half

9.00 pm - 10 pm:           If the sky is clear:  observing through the Ritchey Chrétien reflector



There are three courses, Introductory, Level 2, and General. The Level 2 course is composed of two Units, the  General course is composed of three Units. They are all designed to be fun and interesting, not mathematical in any way or needing any more understanding than most people have. There is no requirement except enthusiasm, and no testing at the conclusion of the course. Participants receive a CD-ROM at the end of each course, which covers everything they have seen.


Note:  We do not run two courses simultaneously.  





1:         Introductory Course

Meet the Stars!


Summary:  the movements of objects in the sky;  the solar system and how to find the planets; the realm of the stars;  learning to recognise and name the most popular stars and constellations;  understanding what stars are and how they work;  galactic clusters;  globular clusters;  nebulae;  the Milky Way;  galaxies;  units used in astronomy.


1.    How does the sky move ?    

            Daily motion, the ecliptic, the zodiac, locating positions in the sky, right ascension, declination

2.    Our neighbour, the Moon  –      

            its appearance and motion, craters, ranges, mountains, seas and an ocean

3.    The Sun, Earth-like planets and small solar system bodies (SSSBs)  –     

            Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars; dwarf planets, asteroids, meteors, comets

4.    The gas giants, ice giants and their families  –    

            Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune with their families of satellites

5.    Stars and constellations        

            Their names, magnitude (brightness), positions, proper motion, popular constellations

6.    All stars are not the same ...     

            Different colours, temperature, distances, sizes, multiple stars etc.

7.    Where do stars come from ?    

            Nebulae, open clusters, variable stars, exploding stars, novae, supernovae, planetary nebulae

8.    The Milky Way ...  what is it ?    

            Our Galaxy, globular clusters, island universes, the Local Group, types of galaxies, QSOs.


plus each clear night: a sky tour of popular stars and constellations, followed by observing selected sky objects (Moon, planets, clusters, nebulae, multiple stars, galaxies etc.) through the Observatory telescope.


 You will see objects like this one, which was photographed through the Starfield Observatory telescope on 14 August 2017:

Omega Centauri

and this one, which was taken through our telescope on 23 August 2017:

The Trifid Nebula, M20






2:         Advanced  Course  -  First Unit:

Exploring the wonders of the Universe


These topics are covered in more detail than in the Introductory Course:  the attributes of stars (identity, colour, temperature, brightness, size, composition, distance, variability, position, motion);  how stars are made;  nebulae;  star clusters; main sequence stars;  non-main sequence stars; double and multiple stars;  Population I and II stars;  stellar associations; variable stars;  exploding stars;  planetary nebulae;  astrophotography.


1.    Constellations –       

            Where did they come from, did anyone sit down and invent them, what happened to constellations such as Felis (the Cat), Globus Aerostaticus (hot-air balloon), Cerberus, Noah's Ark, Antinous and many others?

2.    Attributes of stars –    

            Identity,  colour,  brightness (apparent magnitude and luminosity),  position in constellations and in the sky

3.    Attributes of stars –    

            variability,  distance,  parallax,  the 'standard candle',  Cepheids,  proper motion,  temperature,  size  

4.    Classification of stars     

            spectra,  the bar-code,   composition,  the Harvard and MK classification systems

5.    How stars evolve –    

            Bok globules, protostars, the sizes of stars (supergiants, giants, sub-giants, dwarfs and sub-dwarfs), the H-R diagram,  the main sequence,  the Sun as a typical dwarf star,  non-main sequence stars, the giants branch, asymptotic giants, binaries and multiple stars,  what the future holds for our Sun

6.    Stars with problems –     

            Variable stars,  exploding stars,  planetary nebulae,  novae,  supernovae,  pulsars,  neutron stars,  black holes

7.    Nebulae, galactic clusters and globular clusters –    

            Messier,  the NGC and IC,  emission nebulae,  reflection nebulae and absorption nebulae

8.    Galaxies, clusters of galaxies and superclusters –../../  

         QSOs, the edge of space, relativity, large-scale structure of the universe, the Big-Bang theory, extraterrestrial life


plus  each clear night: a sky tour of popular stars and constellations, followed by observing selected sky objects (Moon, planets, clusters, nebulae, multiple stars, galaxies etc.) through the Observatory telescope.







3:         Advanced Course  -  Second Unit:

Exploring the wonders of the Solar System


Summary: a closer study of the Moon and the Sun’s family of planets in greater detail than in the Introductory Course. 


1.    The Ecliptic –      

        The universe of Ptolemy;   geocentric thinking;   the heliocentric universe of Copernicus;   the zodiac;   the paths of the five naked-eye planets through the background stars;   Kepler's Laws 

2.    The Solar System –      

        the discovery of the outer planets Uranus and Neptune;   the origin of the solar system;   planetary systems around other stars

3.    The Moon 1 –      

        Craters,  walled plains,  ranges,  mountains,  volcanic domes,  ash volcanoes,  valleys,  rilles,  seas,  oceans,  lakes,  marshes

4.    The Moon 2 –        

        Mapping the Moon;  lunar exploration;  lunar atmosphere;  regolith;  how the 'seas' were formed

5.    The terrestrial planets –     

        Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars in greater detail, including exploration, meteors, asteroids

6.    The gas giants –   

        Jupiter and Saturn and their families of satellites in greater detail, including Trojans, exploration, solar wind, magnetospheres, extraterrestrial life

7.    The ice giants –   

        Uranus and Neptune and their families of satellites in greater detail, including exploration

8.    SSSBs –   

        dwarf planets, asteroids, meteors and comets in greater detail, including the Centaurs, Trans-Neptunian objects, the Kuiper Belt,  the Oort Cloud, the Hills Cloud, extra-solar planets, extraterrestrial life


plus  each clear night: a sky tour of popular stars and constellations, followed by observing selected sky objects (Moon, planets, clusters, nebulae, multiple stars, galaxies etc.) through the Observatory telescope.







4:         General Course  -  Understanding the Universe

Unit 1:

From ancient times to Galileo's telescope


Summary: the development of our understanding of the Universe from ancient times - the great progress made by the Greeks, Alexandrians and later the Arabs, to the discoveries of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, to Galileo. Most of these aspects will be illustrated through practical observing at the telescope.


1.    From prehistoric man to the ancient Greeks –   

        a mixture of guesswork, careful observations and philosophy that led to numerous blind alleys and some major discoveries...    Ireland, Egypt, Stonehenge, Babylon, ancient Greek ideas from Thales to Plato and Aristotle

2.    The first steps in cosmology –   

            Egypt, Aristarchus, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus and the Great Library of Alexandria ....   the Earth is surrounded by crystalline spheres which carry the stars and planets  (2000 BC to 100 AD), the Julian Calendar

3.    The preservation of the ancient wisdom by Ptolemy –    

            The Almagest,  Hyginus, destruction of the Great Library, Cathedral schools

4.    The preservation of the ancient wisdom by Arabs –    

            The Arabian heritage and progress in astronomy while Europe enters the Dark Ages .... the crystalline spheres model is developed and fine-tuned to allow better predictions for astrology and astronomy  (AD 100 to AD 1100), sky watchers in the New World, China, Samarkand, new ways to calculate, the great Arabian astronomers such as Albategnius, Archazel, Alhazen, Alberonius, Avicenna and Averroës

5.    The first steps towards a true understanding –    

             The various instruments used in medieval times - the alidade, equatorium, cross staff, torquetum, astrolabe, how the ancient cosmology of the Greeks was adapted by the Christian Church, the Inquisition

6.    The Spanish connection –    

             Spain, Sacrobosco, Gerard of Cremona, King Alfonsus, Gutenberg, Peurbach and Regiomontanus re-translate the Almagest , Europe awakens from the Dark Ages and the Renaissance begins

7.    Major discovery in Europe:  the world is not the centre of the universe !     

             Copernicus, Rheticus, Reinhold, Tycho Brahe, Digges, Mercator, Bruno, and the trouble they got into, including imprisonment, theft and murder ....  the crystalline spheres don't exist   (1400 to 1609)

8.    The invention of the Telescope –       

              Kepler, Lipperhey,  Galileo 



plus each clear night: a sky tour of popular stars and constellations, followed by observing selected sky objects (Moon, planets, clusters, nebulae, multiple stars, galaxies etc.) through the Observatory telescope.







5:         General Course  -  Understanding the Universe

Unit 2:

The great discoveries from 1642 to 1899


Summary: the development of the telescope from the time of Galileo to today’s giant instruments and how these changed things forever; the discovery of the first asteroids, Fraunhofer and the bar-code of the stars, use of photography and spectroscopy to enhance our knowledge. Mmost of these aspects will be illustrated through practical observing at the telescope.


1.    Europe after the invention of the telescope –     

            Zucchi,  Gregory,  Cassegrain,  Hevelius,  Riccioli,  Huygens,  Cassini, Picard, Rømer and the speed of light

2.    Developments in England  – 1:  

            Horrocks, Crabtree, Gascoigne and the 'Nos Keplari',  establishment of the Royal Greenwich Observatory to solve the longitude problem, Flamsteed

3.    Developments in England  – 2:  

            Hooke, Wren, the Parallax Problem

4.    What makes the universe work the way it does ?  1:

            Isaac Newton,  Halley,  Bradley and the aberration of starlight, Kant, Laplace, Lagrangia, Messier and their discoveries 

5.    What makes the universe work the way it does ?  2:   

            the longitude problem and John Harrison  (1630 to 1750),...  are the fixed stars really fixed? Is the universe infinite? Why doesn't gravity make it all collapse?  The search for minor planets and the Titius-Bode Law,  (1650 to 1800)

 6.    Astronomical focus moves from the Solar System to the stars:    

            Goodricke, Michell, the Herschels, the discovery of Uranus, Young

 7.    The beginning of astrophysics:    

            Wollaston, Fraunhofer, the discovery of spectral lines, Schröter, Bessel, Olbers, Struve, Bunsen and Kirchhoff decipher the bar-code of the stars, the Hugginses, Maxwell, Dreyer and the NGC and ICs

 8.    The beginning of the modern era to 1899:    

        Secchi, Schiaparelli and the canals on Mars, Henry Draper, Lockyer, Lowell, Hale, Barnard


plus each clear night: a sky tour of popular stars and constellations, followed by observing selected sky objects (Moon, planets, clusters, nebulae, multiple stars, galaxies etc.) through the Observatory telescope.







6:         General Course  -  Understanding the Universe

Unit 3:

Progress in the 20th century and up to the present


Summary:  Einstein and the theory of relativity; the colour-magnitude relationship of stars; how stars form and evolve; novae and supernovae; neutron stars, pulsars, QSOs; black holes and X-ray stars; how galaxies form; radio astronomy; the cosmic microwave background; the Big Bang theory; the age of the Universe; how planets are formed from the dust produced by exploding stars; where life comes from; our present knowledge of how the Universe came to be and what may happen to it; Australians invent radio astronomy….   most of these aspects will be illustrated through practical observing at the telescope.


1.    Classifying the stars –      

        Deciphering stellar spectra, Young, Faraday, Maxwell, Michelson, Morley, the Michelson-Morley Experiment, Hertz, Secchi sorts the stars into groups, Henry Draper, E. E. Barnard, Harvard Observatory, Edward Pickering, Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, Annie Jump Cannon's system for classifying the stars, Henrietta Leavitt uses Cepheids to measure the universe

2.    Discovery of the expansion of the universe    

        Lowell Obsevatory, Vesto Slipher and the red shift, the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, Hale, the commissioning of the Hooker 100-inch telescope, Einstein and relativity, Eddington, Shapley and Curtis have a Great Debate on the nature of the spiral nebulae, Hubble and Humason, Hubble's Law, interferometry, discovery of Pluto

3.    The Big Bang Theory –    

        Georges Lemaître and his primeval atom, the cold Big Bang Theory, Fritz Zwicky, the hot Big Bang Theory of Alpher and Gamow, Hoyle and the Steady State Theory, Baade and stellar populations, Gamow and the early universe

4.    Nucleosynthesis in stars is worked out –    

        How the elements are made, the Burbidges, Fowler, Chandrasekhar, radio astronomy is invented (Jansky, Reber, Pawsey, Bolton, Lovell), the cosmic microwave background, pulsars, quasi-stellar objects, Gerard Kuiper, Jan Oort, Karl Schwartzschild 

5.    Cosmology as we understand it today –  

        Developments to the present day, space exploration, exoplanets discovered, dark matter, dark energy, our present knowledge of the Big Bang

6.    Australia plays its part in optical astronomy –  

        Our great optical observatories from 1820 to the present, Sir Thomas Brisbane, Dunlop, Mount Stromlo Observatory, the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer and SUSI

7.    Australia leads the way in radio astronomy –  

        Our vital role in the invention and development of radio astronomy from 1940 to 1960 using CSIRO field stations around Sydney, our radio observatories and interferometers, the Parkes Radiothermal Telescope, the Australia Telescope; the SKA

8.    Putting it all together –  

        Our present understanding of the Universe, its origin, evolution and future, and our place in it.






Starfield Observatory and its operator reserve the right to modify course content and the order of the topics, according to the requirements of the available sky, e.g. Moon phase.







We are children of the stars ....         we are all made of stardust


How old are you?   

             How old are the cells in your body?   

                         How old are the chemicals in those cells?

                                         How old are the atoms that compose those chemicals?      

                                                             Where did those atoms come from?


The atoms in your body are extremely ancient, older than the Earth, in fact. Many are probably well over 5000 million years old, over a third of the age of the universe.

Scientists believe that the early universe was originally mainly composed of hydrogen, with some helium and small amounts of lithium. Nothing else. Burning of hydrogen inside stars has now consumed 2% of the universe’s supply of hydrogen – 98% of the observable universe is still primeval hydrogen. (This does not include the mysterious dark matter and dark energy.)

Where were the atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, sodium, phosphorus, iron, lead, silver, gold, and all of the other elements (except hydrogen) that compose us and our world made?


Answer: In the thermonuclear interiors of stars as part of their normal evolution. All elements heavier than iron were created in the cores of great stars more than five times bigger than our Sun that had blown themselves apart as novae or supernovae.


In each cataclysmic explosion, the heavy elements were created by the tremendous implosion that preceded it, when the simpler atoms of gases and other lighter elements were crushed together in a thermonuclear crunch to fuse into more complex, heavier elements. Immediately after their creation, they were blown into space in a titanic blast. These elements became cosmic dust, and over millions of years drifted together through their own mutual gravitational attraction to form planets and, eventually, us.





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