World record stargazing attempt on campus

13 August 2015

The moon will be the main attraction of the night.

ANU will attempt to set a world record for the most people stargazing at one site on Friday August 21 as part of the University's contribution to national Science Week.

The current record stands at 640 people at a single site. But organiser Dr Brad Tucker from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics expects thousands of people to attend the stargazing event at the ANU city campus.

People taking part can use their own telescopes or binoculars, or sign up to order one of 10,000 mini telescopes, which will give a spectacular view of the moon.

"The moon will be the main attraction of the night," Dr Tucker said.

"With these little telescopes people will be able to pick out the craters on the moon and ancient lava flows, especially along the line between the dark side of the moon and the bright side, known as the terminator line.

"Through the bigger telescopes you will be able to see beautiful objects such as Saturn's rings, the Jewel Box star cluster and some colourful nebulae," Dr Tucker said.

As well as the world record for a single site, Dr Tucker is also aiming for a new record for the most people stargazing at multiple sites around Australia, including the Torres Strait, Broken Hill and in Western Australia's Pilbara region. The current record stands at 3,007, but Dr Tucker is hoping for up to 15,000 people to take part.

An interactive map of the 48 sites taking part is available on the event website.

Representatives from Guinness World Records will be on hand to validate the number of people simultaneously looking at the sky through a telescope or binoculars. If a new record is set, everyone who takes part will receive a certificate.

Volunteers from ANU, Questacon and amateur astronomical societies will lead stargazing groups. For those wanting to see more distant objects, larger telescopes will be on hand.

ANU scientists, including Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt, will give talks on astronomy before the world record attempt at 8.30pm.

To be part of the record, people need to register at the ANU Events page. Registration is free for people with their own binoculars or telescopes. Mini telescopes can be ordered in advance for $5.50.