Record-breaking number of stargazers to gather in Australia

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Record-breaking number of stargazers to gather in Australia
This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth - one million miles away. Credits: NASA/NOAA

As a part of its contribution to the national Science Week, the Australian National University is attempting to set a new world record for the highest number of stargazers gathered at one place later tonight.

Over 3,000 people are expected to gather at the ANU city campus and people taking part can use their stargazing wares including telescopes or binoculars. Those who don’t have one at their disposal and order one of 10,000 mini telescopes in advance for $5.50., which will give a spectacular view of the moon.

Dr Brad Tucker from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said that the moon will be the main attraction tonight. Using the mini-telescopes provided by the ANU, stargazers will be able to not only pick out the craters on the moon, they will also be able to view ancient lava flows 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.

There are two world records that ANU is aiming to establish. First the largest number of star gazers congregated at one single site and the other being 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.