This you may feel to be peculiar tip if you are expecting me to tell you about telescopes and all things astronomical. Indeed, if I had written this tip pre-18 January 2003 that is precisely what I would have been writing about.
On 18 January 2003 massive bushfires raged across Mt Stromolo and a number of suburbs in Canberra’s south. Miraculously only 4 people lost their lives in those fires (which lasted four days) but 500 homes and businesses (mainly homes) were lost. The Mt Stromolo site was severely affected and lost all but one of its telescopes, its workshops and design offices, the administration block, the director’s residence, library and archives.
Over the intervening years the observatory, owned by the Australian National University’s (ANU) Research School of Astronomy, has re-established itself though most of the telescopes are now at Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran, NSW while the administrative centre, the offices of the astronomers and students, the mechanical, electronic and optical workshops, and the computer laboratories are located at Mt Stromolo.
Today I recommend you visit the site to reflect on the damage fire can do – suburbs and homes elsewhere have been rebuilt so this is the only remaining reminder of the fires. There is an official bushfire memorial near by on Cotter Road which is the subject of a separate tip.
Mt Stromolo is an all the more poignant site for those readers who have been affected by bushfires or who have lived in areas affected. While not directly affected by the 2003 fires as I live on the north side of the city, I still vividly recall the pure orange skies and the absolute dryness and stillness in the air (though it was far from still where the fires raged) of that weekend and the dead cinders of the fire falling in my garden – some 10 odd kilometres from the fire itself. While Australia is a stunning country and a fantastic place to live (and visit!) it is prone to severe weather extremes – from prolonged drought to severe flooding to horrific bushfires. For my money nothing is worse than uncontrolled fire – there is so little you can do.
I digress, back to Mt Stromolo which began operation as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory in 1942 and became part of ANU in 1957. There has however been an Observatory here carrying out astronomical observations for over 100 years.
The operating part of the site is not open to general visitors – this includes part of the area affected by the fires and since rebuilt. That said you can see the charred remains of the Observatory’s 74” Reflector Telescope (picture 1) - equal 4th largest telescope in the world when it was erected in 1954, the shell of the building which housed a 26” Yale-Colombia Refractor telescope (picture 2) and the remains of a 50” Reflector telescope (picture 3) on the lawns close to the remains of the Observatory’s director’s residence (picture 4).
Dr Walter Geoffrey Duffield, founder and first Director of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory is buried (at his request) at the northern end of the complex on a ridge of Mt Stromlo overlooking the Murrumbidgee Valley. Not even his resting place escaped the path of the January 2013 bushfires. The fence and cross were burned and many of the lead letters on the gravestones melted. The site was fully restored later in 2003.
Close to the former director’s residence, is a new sculpture by Anne Graham opened in 2007 (picture 5). The sculpture is entitled “Walking on the Moon” and is a flat round concrete plinth with a flat moon like appearance. I guess the sculpture is completed and becomes “Walking on the Moon” when you, the visitor, walk on it! Worth a look if you are up here but I will keep my real thoughts to myself on this one.
Should you be interested in further details of the equipment lost in the fires and the site in general download from http://rsaa.anu.edu.au/observatories/mount-stromlo-observatory the pamphlet “Mt Stromolo Observatory – Visitor Guide and Walk” which gives summary detail. If this is not enough for you even greater detail can be found in another guide “Visitors Centre” available from the same site. The visitors centre has been closed indefinitely and is in fact now the site for Scope Mt Stromolo a cafe cum restaurant.
If you would like to join a walking tour of the site email firstname.lastname@example.org. As I understand it tours are being held, in this the centenary year of Canberra, on 08 June, 13 July, 10 August, 14 September, 12 October, 09 November, 14 December (10-00 – 11-30am). Star gazing evenings - 7-00 to 9-00pm - will also be held on 14 June, 12 July, 16 August. 13 September and 11 October (pre-booking not necessary but subject to cancellation in the event of unfavorable weather).
The views from the Observatory site also make the drive up worth it. I wish I could say the same about the offerings of the restaurant/cafe but I cannot. See my separate review on the Scope - Mt Stromolo.
Please be aware that cycling up the Mt Stromolo is a popular activity so do be careful as you drive up and down.
Mount Stromolo - located approximately 18km southwest of the centre of Canberra and accessed via Mt Stromolo Road off the Cotter Road
CSIRO Discovery Centre is a window in to the world of scientific research, literally. Located on the Black Mountain campus of the Commonwealth Science & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), you can glimpse the world of the lab researcher through plate glass windows. Enjoy a cappucino and a glorious view over the Australian National University from the coffee shop. Visit the interactive exhibition for a small fee ($6 adult, $3 child).
Canberra Space Dome is a Planetarium and an observatory. The planetarium is state of the art with reclining seats, 360 degree dome ceiling and 1 million dollar projector. The observatory has some fairly big telescopes which let you peep at the stars and moons in our universe.
There is not much to do in Canberra but this place is definately worth a visit if you have an evening to kill.
The interactive science centre is an amazing place for kids and adults.The interesting models and the whole ensemble is a good way to spend a day.Their closing hours are 5 p.m. and so make sure you go there well in advance.There is a small coffe shop that sells snacks and drinks and also a shop selling science kits and soveniers.
There's no dull moment here for my family of three boys (9, 13 and 40ish-this one is my hubby!) as they enjoy visiting this attraction all the time whenever we're in Canberra.
Plenty of science exhibits are on offer, plus loads of hand on displays, activities, experiments, gadgets, etc. There are always something different- shows and roving crash dummies and fairies, etc.
My budding scientists who not surprisingly are very good in this subject in their respective grade/year/ career (hubby is a great computer programmer, ask his workmates) that we continuously do our best to explore more challenging pursuits and visits to this place are always a must!
Some regular exhibits are Eaten Alive, Awesome Earth, Wavelength, Mini Q, and more. Birthday parties are accepted here too for those lucky Canberra locals!
We are already planning another trip there as we still got family tickets which don't expire till April 2009!
If I suggested that you visit The National Science and Technology Centre, built in 1988 as a joint Australian and Japanese project to celebrate the Australian Bicentenary, it would sound rather dull and technical. But if I said Whatever you do, don't miss Questacon I would be using the popular name for the same place - and believe me it is far from being dull and technical.
Questacon is a very interactive series of displays (some ongoing, but many changing often) designed to make science fun for kids of all ages. In it, you are involved in simple experiments to demonstrate science through personal discovery. As just a few examples, you can experience an earthquake, learn of the science behind fun parks, watch lightning strike, play with music and find out about acoustics, or test your latent sporting abilities. There are plenty of volunteer 'explainers' to provide any needed clarification of what things are about. Not surprisingly, it is a popular destination for school groups and usually is crowded on weekends.
Probably because the car parks are at the back, everyone seems to enter through the cafe rather than through the main entrance!
Main photo: Questacon as you approach from the carparks
Second photo: Entry via the cafe
Third photo: Questacon seen from the balloon
The building interior is certainly different. What may look a little above the average outside is radically different on the inside.
In the second picture I'm actually heading towards the exit and, en route on this suspended walkway, they have a revolving mirror that totally surrounds you givng you the impression that you are actually turning.
This is a fully hands-on science museum, listed as The National Science and Technology Centre. It's an unusual building, especially inside, where the walkway spirals upwards and the exhibition rooms are accessed through doorways as you ascend.
Though I enjoy it, it's fair to suggest it's aimed more at children and if you have them in tow, this is a worthwhile place to spend some time. Somewhere between 1-2 hours should pull you up, depending on how curious your children are.
They'll undoubtedly love the moving dinosaurs, guaranteed to scare the wits out of your three year old, on the ground floor, and they'll surely never forget the lightning strike, on cue around every thirteen minutes, about halfway through the building.
It was $14AUS per adult and half for kids when I visited but families can get discounts.
I remember the Questacon Centre being alot of fun way back in 1988. I assume it is still the same, but with alot more up-to-date exhibits.
The intention of Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre is to help people understand science, its importance, and its application to everyday life. Take the kids. It's one place where you never have to say "don't touch that!" as everything here is designed to involve both minds and bodies.
$14 adult, $8 child, $9.50 concession
If u are interested in the Science and Technology or rather u want to pump in more knowledge to your children on Sci n Tech, then Questacon is the place for u !!! Questacon featured a lot of sci and technology things that u will never be able to see in daily life. Things such as the light harp, the earthquake experience and etc.
The entrace fee is AUD$14 (adult) and if u are a student, u will have concession price at AUD$9.50.
open from 9 - 5pm daily (closed during xmas)
It is sandwiched between the National library and the High court of Aust. on the opposite of the road, u will be able to see Old Parliament house and New parliament house. so if u happen to go to OPH or NPH, do make a visit to Questacon, high court and also National gallery !!!
Visit Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre) if you get the chance. It is heaps of fun - you can be a kid for the day and get away with it! :) Or if you have kids then they will love it!
Opening hours are 9 am to 5 pm every day of the year except Christmas Day.
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
has recently been the focus of attention as it relayed pictures of Mars, transmitted by NASA's Pathfinder mission. At the Canberra Space Centre you can see space memorabilia. Check out what the well-dressed astronaut wears on the moon and view a piece of the Moon. A real must for everyone who is interest in space research.
Canberra's tracking station is one of three Deep Space Communication Complexes (DSCC), which make up the global Deep Space Network (DSN) of radio antennas. The DSN's three Deep Space Communication complexes are positioned approximately 120 degrees apart to give maximum global coverage. These complexes are located in Goldstone (Mojave Desert, California, USA), near Madrid (Spain) and
Tidbinbilla (ACT, Australia). Visit also the live web cam.