What do we look like from space?

1 September 2020

We are about to find out.

ANU recently took part in the ACT National Science Week Satellite Selfie, along with national cultural institutions, schools and members of the Canberra community.

We painted the letters ANU on Fellows Oval along with the crest as well as the Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander flag and unfurled a 25 metre long banner featuring the words All in this together 2020. The ANU School of Art and Design showed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, painting a giant BLM on its lawn.

On Monday morning, 17 August, Ngambri-Ngunnawal Canberra Aboriginal elder Auntie Matilda and Ngambri-Ngunnawal custodian Paul House gave an official welcome to country, accompanied by a smoking ceremony.

ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker, says he came up with the idea of the Satellite Selfie while mowing the grass.  He said he imagined hundreds of different images coming together to form the "ultimate, out of this world, selfie".

Dr Tucker worked with the ACT National Science Week team and the ACT Government’s Where You Are Festival to bring the idea to life.

The first Satellite Selfie flyover on Monday, 17 August successfully captured images from the Northern Territory. However, cloudy skies over much of Canberra prevented the satellite from getting a clear image. Fortunately, the clouds cleared for the second ACT flyover on Tuesday, 25 August, resulting in clear images of the ACT as well as surrounding towns like Tharwa, Royalla, Sutton, Bungendore, Yass and Murrumbateman.

In the Northern Territory, the satellite captured Darwin and Palmerston, Pine Creek, Katherine, Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Jilkmingan, Mataranka, Barunga, Beswick, Manyallaluk, Jabiru, Gunbalanya, Batchelor, Adelaide River, Ramingining and Ngukurr.

Many national institutions took part in the Satellite Selfie. The Australian War Memorial painted a giant poppy on its lawn, accompanied by the words ‘Lest We Forget’. The Museum of Australian Democracy and the National Museum both created giant red love hearts while the National Gallery painted the words ‘Know My Name’ near the Gallery entrance.

The National Portrait Gallery created a big red painting ‘frame’. The National Capital Authority designed a ‘boat ballet’, with boats moving in formation on Lake Burley Griffin. The Academy of Science put out a large sign saying, “Science will solve this.” Many schools took part with their initials or another message. The ABC rolled out a giant logo. The EU displayed all the flags of the European Union and even Canberra’s hot air balloonists joined the fun.

If you search for #satelliteselfie on social media, you can see the warmth and enthusiasm for the project, with hundreds of people posting photos and videos.

Dr Brad Tucker says he hopes the satellite imagery will be available in the very near future. When the images are ready, they will be posted online and also feature in the next ANU Reporter. The Satellite Selfie was presented by the Where You Are Festival with the support of the ACT Government and was co-hosted by The Australian National University.

The Satellite Selfie was part of National Science Week in the ACT which included a variety of engaging science events running from 15 to 23 August. This National Science Week project was supported by the Australian Government.