On Friday 21 August 2015 the ANU Melbourne Alumni Network contributed as an official site for the ANU Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics' attempt to break the world record for the most people simultaneously stargazing across multiple sites in a country.
The world record was not broken, but smashed, as thousands of people across Australia turned their eyes and telescopes skyward for 10 minutes between 8:30 pm and 8:40 pm.
Before the world record attempt the Melbourne Alumni Network witnessed a thrilling presentation from Professor Matthew Bailes (PhD ANU '90), now Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology. Professor Bailes discussed the source of his passion for astrophysics, and his new research project leading the global search for extra-terrestrial life. Delicious drinks and canapés were served to attendees in preparation for the important world record attempt.
Just before 8:30 pm the hit single "Shooting Star", by Australian alternative dance duo Bag Raiders, signalled the start of the world record attempt. Inspired by Professor Bailes' extra-terrestrial research project, Alumni Network members ardently set about the task of locating and naming (or re-naming) each visible star in the Melbourne night sky. There were no obvious signs of extra-terrestrial life, but the plentiful supply of 3 cm mirror telescopes provided to each attendee made stargazing a breeze for all the new amateur astronomers.
But world records are also a grave and serious occasion. After the world record attempt was concluded the official time-keepers, stewards and independent witnesses each solemnly prepared a statutory declaration confirming that the Guinness World Record official guidelines had been carefully adhered to. We look forward to receiving certification from Guinness World Records head office of the new world record. Congratulations to the ANU Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics for championing such a unique science outreach and alumni engagement initiative.