Sunday, July 01, 2012

24 May 2012: The night at the Sydney Observatory

24 May 2012 (Thu): It was a cloudy night with a fair bit of rain. I had made a booking for a night visit to the Sydney Observatory. The tour started at 8.15 p.m.

Due to the sky conditions, it was not possible to view the stars and the planets through the telescopes of the Observatory. Instead, my tour group was treated to a fun planetarium session. According to wikipedia, a planetarium is a theatre that is built primarily for presenting educational shows about astronomy.


On a large dome-shaped projection screen, scenes of the celestial objects are created using various projector systems. During the planetarium session, our handsome guide shared with us how to identify the Southern Cross. I learnt that the Southern Cross, otherwise known as Crux, is a distinctive constellation that is easily visible from the southern hemisphere at any time of the year. I learnt to identify the two pointer stars above the horizon which will lead me to find the Southern Cross.

That night, our group also learnt about the Orion constellation. I was just amazed at the level of creativity that  observers of astronomy used to imagine shapes and images by connecting seemingly distinct stars. It took me quite a while to imagine and visualize the belt of the Orion constellation, which supposedly resemble the image of a hunter.

During the planetarium session, I learnt that stars that look red burn at lower temperatures while stars that look blue burn at a higher temperature.

Sydney Observatory, the modern computer-controlled reflecting telescope.

After the planetarium session, we had the pleasure to visit the two different telescopes located in the compounds of the Sydney Observatory. One of the telescopes was a historic 1874 large refracting lens telescope that was definitely more than a century older than myself! All the participants of the night tour had the privilege to have a brief night telescope viewing session through this historic telescope. I learnt that it is the oldest working telescope in Australia! The other telescope in the Observatory was a modern computer-controlled reflecting telescope. Our tour group had the privilege to look through the modern telescope in the north dome as well.

Concluding the tour were a viewing of two videos, one of which was a humourous and educational video entitled "Bigger than Big".

Overall, I felt thankful for the rainy weather that night. The less than ideal weather condition allowed me to have a chance to enjoy a planetarium session. I find the night visit to the Sydney Observatory to be interesting and educational. Anyone who would like to learn a little more about astronomy would probably be find a night visit to Sydney Observatory to be a delightful experience. For AUD$18 per adult, I thought the experience was an affordable and educational one.

Please take note that night visits to the Observatory need to be booked and pre-paid. Telephone bookings for the night sessions close at 5 p.m. There is a limit of 20 persons per tour.

Sydney Observatory
Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks.
Tel: 61-2-9921-3485
For more information on the night visit, please visit:

Related posts:
20 Nov 2010: The evening at Observatory Park
18 Sep 2008: Finding our way to the Sydney Observatory

Also visit: Sydney, May 2012: A time to heal and to be inspired

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