Meet astronaut Andy Thomas at Siding Spring Observatory's 50th

2 October 2014

Siding Spring Observatory will celebrate its 50th birthday this weekend at this year's StarFest.

Highlights include Australian NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas giving the Bok Lecture on Sunday 5 October, and Open Day at Siding Spring on Saturday 4 October.

"We are lucky to have astronaut Andy Thomas coming to talk about the future of human space exploration and what it is like to live on board the international space station," said Peter Verwayen, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"It is an opportunity to get an insight into what is happening in science both at the observatory, at the ANU and around the world."

Siding Spring is an observatory with nine operating telescopes, including the SkyMapper Telescope which is creating the first comprehensive digital map of the southern sky.

The result will be a massively detailed record of more than a billion stars and galaxies, to a sensitivity one million times fainter than the human eye can see.

The survey's data will be made freely available to the scientific and general community via the internet.

Earlier this year, Dr Stefan Keller discovered the oldest known star in the universe using the SkyMapper Telescope.

"Its true impact on astronomy probably won't be felt for 10 years because of the mass of data that will be produced," said Mr Verwayen.

The SkyMapper Telescope will be in action when the Observatory throws open its doors on Saturday 4 October. Astronomers from ANU and Australian Astronomical Observatory will also give mini lectures on the day.

For more information on StarFest go to www.starfest.org.au.