“Our World Needs Space”

This week is World Space Week, celebrating “at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”. Ahead of this, last week saw over 3,400 members of the international space community gather in Toronto for the 65th International Astronautical Congress under the theme Our World Needs Space.

Toronto, host city for IAC 2014.

Toronto, host city for IAC 2014.

The large meeting drew together a diverse range of professionals, academics, students, industry and government officials. Numerous parallel sessions of talks and discussions covered topics ranging from commercialisation of space travel, space law, propulsion systems, navigation, education and much more. The impressive opening ceremony on the Monday morning included performances by Cirque du Soleil and a variety of Canadian musicians. Canadian astronaut and well-known twitter user Cmdr Chris Hadfield received a rock-star welcome when he arrived on the stage at the highlight of the ceremony.

Lockheed Martin's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

A large exhibition floor had displays from a diverse range of organisations and space industries from many different countries. Exhibits included a full-size inflatable model of Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and a mockup of the interior of Space-X’s Dragon Version 2 spacecraft complete with two of the stylish seats to try out.

Mockup of the Space X Dragon Version 2 Spacecraft interior

Mockup of the Space X Dragon Version 2 Spacecraft interior.

Australia was well represented with over 50 participants from many different organisations and a strong contingent of students. We were bidding for the right to host the 2017 IAC, with Adelaide as the venue. After a tense session of the International Astronautical Federation on the final day Adelaide was recommended as the host city for this event, ahead of contenders Bremen, Istanbul and Orlando.

Happy Australians celebrating Adelaide's selection as host city for the 107 IAC.

Happy Australians celebrating Adelaide’s selection as host city for the 107 IAC.

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science staff Dr George Hobbs and Rob Hollow attended both the Congress and the International Space Education Board teacher forum held on the Saturday preceding the congress. They ran a successful hands-on PULSE@Parkes observing session for Canadian teachers in which the teachers directly controlled the famous 64m Parkes radio telescope to observe pulsars then analyse their data. Their presence at the forum was due the invitation and support of our friends at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) who organised the entire teacher day.

Dr George Hobbs discussing pulsars with Canadian teachers at the PULSE@Parkes session.

Dr George Hobbs discussing pulsars with Canadian teachers at the PULSE@Parkes session.

Great night for a red Moon

Next Wednesday, 8 October, there’ll be a fabulous reason to stop what you’re doing, grab your camera and look up. In the early evening – in Australia – a total lunar eclipse will mean that the full Moon will appear to turn red.

This ‘blood moon’ will be the second total lunar eclipse for 2014 and it promises to be even better than the first. For most of us the Moon will be higher in the sky and so easier to see. And the whole eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) from eastern and central Australia; people in Western Australia will get to see most of it as well.

The full Moon, rusty red in colour, and dark sky

This great photo of the Moon in eclipse was taken from Sydney Observatory in 2007. Photo: Geoff Wyatt.

Why will the Moon appear red?
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and the Moon are in alignment, so that the Moon is in Earth’s shadow. But the Moon doesn’t fall into complete darkness.

“Due to the refraction of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere the Moon doesn’t appear totally dark, instead it looks red or orange – like the glow of a sunset,” says Rob Hollow, Education Officer with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

When should I look up?
The whole eclipse will happen quite slowly, over a period of about 3 hours.

In eastern Australia the eclipse will start after sunset at 7:15pm AEST (8:15pm AEDT); in central Australia it will start at 6:45pm ACST (7:45pm ACDT).

It will take 1 hour and 10 minutes for the Earth’s shadow to completely cover the Moon. Once reached, this period of ‘totality’ will last for about an hour before the shadow starts to recede.

In Western Australia the Moon will rise partly in eclipse and totality will start just after sunset (6:25pm AWST).

While the best view of the eclipse will be from the Pacific Ocean and surrounding regions other parts of the world will also get to see it (take a look at timeanddate.com for locations and times).

“Lunar eclipses are safe to view and you don’t need any filters or safety equipment,” says Rob.

When will the next total lunar eclipse happen?
According to Sydney Observatory a total eclipse of the Moon is visible from Australia on average every 2.8 years, although the number of lunar eclipses in a year can range from none up to a maximum of three.

After 8 October, the next total lunar eclipse will take place on 4 April 2015.

So grab a seat, relax and enjoy the show.

In Australia, daylight saving time starts at 2am on Sunday 5 October 2014 in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

UPDATE 9 October 2014: It was all clear skies for some and cloud for others. For those who did get to see the total eclipse it was an impressive sight indeed. Take a look at some of the lunar eclipse photos from across Australia and Asia on our News@CSIRO blog.

And if all the excitement surrounding this eclipse has left you wanting to know more, then take a look at this great lunar eclipse ‘explainer’ by Tanya Hill at The Conversation.

Mars Served Two New Spacecraft with Help from Aussie Dishes

UPDATE: 25 Sept.14 – NASA’s MAVEN and ISRO’s MOM spacecraft arrived successfully in orbit and have already been returning science from Mars. The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, as part of NASA’s Deep Space Network provided excellent command and telemetry services for both missions. Further updates on the missions can be found on their werbsites and Twitter feeds: MAVEN @MAVEN2Mars | MOM @MarsOrbiter

LISTENING: The deep space dishes of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Image: Astro0

LISTENING: The deep space dishes of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Image: Astro0

The giant antenna dishes of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex are set to receive the radio signals from two new spacecraft signalling their arrival in orbit above the red planet Mars. NASA’s MAVEN (Martian Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) are due to arrive at Mars on Monday 22nd and Wednesday 24th September respectively. These two robotic explorers are set to turn their instruments on the Martian atmosphere to understand its composition and how it has changed over time. Getting spacecraft into orbit around Mars is never easy. Over the past 40 years, nearly two-thirds of the spacecraft that have attempted to get there have failed and few have succeeded on their first try. At the moment, NASA has the best track record and right now are operating four spacecraft either in orbit (Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) or on the surface with rovers (Opportunity and Curiosity). The European Space Agency has its own orbiter (Mars Express) currently collecting high resolution images and ground penetrating radar data. Each of these spacecraft have their unique science assignments: mapping, looking at the surface and subsurface environments, analysing rock and soil or studying the lower layers of the Martian atmosphere.

MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission. Image: NASA

MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission. Image: NASA

With MAVEN, NASA scientists want to understand changes that have happened to Mars as the sun stripped away most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a cold and barren desert world. Previous missions to Mars have shown that the atmosphere and climate have changed over billions of years and found evidence of abundant liquid water on the surface in ancient times. Scientists want to know what happened to the water and where the planet’s thick atmosphere went. The MAVEN mission will study the nature of the red planet’s upper atmosphere, how solar activity contributes to atmospheric loss, and the role that escape of gas from the atmosphere to space has played through time. For the MOM spacecraft, ISRO’s goal is to demonstrate its launch systems, spacecraft-building and operations capabilities. As much a technology demonstrator as a science mission, MOM will showcase the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.

MARS NEEDS MOM: India's first spacecraft to visit the red planet. Image: ISRO

MARS NEEDS MOM: India’s first spacecraft to visit the red planet. Image: ISRO

MOM’s science goals are equally ambitious for a first time mission. Once in orbit it will explore Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy and atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. One instrument, the Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) will “sniff” the Martian atmosphere looking for signs of and concentrations of methane gas which can have both geological and biological origins. While studies by previous missions and Earth-based detectors have yielded ambiguous results, the detection of methane could suggest the presence of Martian microbes. For both of these missions to succeed, they first need to get into orbit around Mars. This is no easy task. One of the complexities for any mission is reliable communications to enable science teams to troubleshoot issues, relay commands and get their valuable science data back to Earth. This is the unique and high pressure role of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) – three tracking stations around the world which provide two-way radio contact for the dozens of robotic spacecraft exploring the Solar System and beyond. With a third DSN station in Spain, it will be the two tracking stations in Goldstone, California and the CSIRO-managed Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex that will provide the vital link to both MAVEN and MOM during their critical Mars orbit insertion (MOI) manoeuvres. Approaching Mars at over 11,000 kilometres per hour, each spacecraft will fire their engines for approximately 30 minutes, slowing down just enough to allow Mars’ gravity to capture them into orbit.

TRACKING: Deep Space Station 43 - 70 metres wide and 22-storeys high at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex Image: K.McDonnell

TRACKING: Deep Space Station 43 – 70 metres wide and 22-storeys high at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex Image: K.McDonnell

Canberra will be the Prime station for both MOIs relaying data back to the anxious scientists waiting at the mission control centres at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and at ISRO’s Telemetry Tracking and Command Network in Bangalore. Capturing these tiny signals and confirming that the spacecraft have successfully entered orbit will fall to the largest antenna dish in the southern hemisphere, Deep Space Station 43, which has been a workhorse for the DSN for over 40 years. It is a dish that has supported many great missions and the arrival of two new spacecraft at Mars this month just adds to its rich history. Along with her dedicated team of CSIRO engineers and technicians, and in hand with colleagues at the DSN station in the United States, MAVEN and MOM will be given the smoothest ride possible as they enter orbit above the dusty plains of Mars.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is managed on NASA’s behalf in Australia by CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

Alcohol points to something fundamental

A dark background with a bright, swirling galaxy in the centre of the image.

The Sculptor galaxy, imaged by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Australian astronomers Simon Ellingsen (University of Tasmania) and our own Shari Breen, and their international collaborators, have discovered the first class I methanol maser outside our own galaxy. Could this type of alcohol be used to test if fundamental constants really are constant?

Ever thought that alcohol had revealed to you some fundamental truth? It seems to have done that for a bunch of astronomers using CSIRO’s Compact Array telescope.

But they were studying the stuff, rather than drinking it. The alcohol was methanol, rather than the less-poisonous ethanol. And to cap it off, the good stuff was not in the fridge but rather less handy, in the Sculptor galaxy (NGC 253) 11.4 million light-years away.

Five white telescope dishes on a bright, sunny day

CSIRO’s Compact Array radio telescope. (Image: D. Smyth).

As the Compact Array is a radio telescope, you might guess—and you’d be right—that the astronomers found the methanol because it was glowing in radio waves.

The methanol molecules form what’s called a maser: the natural equivalent of a laser, but emitting radio waves rather than light. Under the right circumstances, the methanol molecules can be ‘fed’ with energy (from radiation, or pressure waves) passing through the gas they’re in, and re-emit this energy in a very concentrated form at a very specific wavelength.

There are two kinds, or classes, of methanol maser. Both can be found in gas clouds that are turning into stars. So-called ‘class II’ methanol masers sit right near the embryonic star: they get their energy from the radiation the star emits. ‘Class I’ methanol masers sit further away from the star, and are powered by the energy in colliding gas molecules.

The new methanol maser the astronomers have found is a class I maser, and it’s the very first one found in a galaxy other than our own.

Testing the Universe
So, what’s all that got to do with fundamental truths?

Physics is strewn with fundamental constants—numbers that, for our physical theories to work, we assume remain constant throughout time and space. Some of these numbers, the dimensionless ones, may be more fundamental than others, but we do assume that all of them are unchanging.

But what if they aren’t? Physicist Paul Dirac made that unsettling suggestion back in 1937 (specifically about the gravitational constant, G). Careful laboratory experiments made over many years haven’t found evidence for these numbers changing.

However, they also need to be tested in the Universe. Because light travels at a finite speed, looking out into space is also looking back in time (we see objects as they were when they emitted that light, which can be billions of years ago). So we should, in principle, be able to learn if some of these fundamental numbers have changed over long periods of time.

One of the fundamental numbers is μ (the Greek letter mu), which is the ratio of the mass of the proton to the mass of the electron. This ratio would be different from what it is in the laboratory if, for example, ‘scalar fields’ were responsible for ‘dark energy’.

It turns out that methanol is about 100 times more sensitive to changes in μ than other molecules we can observe readily in space.

The methanol maser emission found in NGC 253 was about ten times intrinsically brighter than the same kind of emission recently found coming from the centre of our own Galaxy. NGC 253 was targeted because it’s a galaxy that is very actively forming stars. If more star formation leads to more methanol maser emission, then we might be able to detect such emission from galaxies that existed and were forming their stars much earlier on in the Universe. In turn, that would give us a good chance to determine if μ has changed over time.

And if μ has changed over time? That would be a very big deal. If you changed the physical constants even slightly, life like us wouldn’t be possible.

Watch this space!

The original research paper on which this post is based was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters (Simon P. Ellingsen et al. 2014 ApJ 790 L28 http://stacks.iop.org/2041-8205/790/L28).

The Pleiades Awards: towards gender equity

Black background with numerous bright blue-white stars.

The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. Photo: NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech.

The Women in Astronomy Chapter of the Astronomical Society of Australia is holding its annual workshop in Canberra this week. One of today’s highlights will be the official launch of The Pleiades Awards, a new initiative for astronomy organisations to monitor and improve the status of women.

Current Chair of the Women in Astronomy Chapter, our own Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith, explains…

Towards gender equity in Australian astronomy research institutes

Professional astronomy in Australia is male-dominated, with men constituting 76% of Members and 87% of Fellows of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), our peak professional body. Although women make up an increasing proportion of astronomy PhD students in Australia, the system is haemorrhaging women as they rise above the Level B (Lecturer) stage of their careers.

I have sometimes heard this fact dismissed as ‘inevitable’, since it is predominantly women who (have the audacity to) possess the biological apparatus necessary for childbirth. This is a non-argument. In my view, a system that fails to accommodate highly skilled and talented scientists (regardless of gender) after they take on new responsibilities is spectacularly broken.

We know that childbirth is not the only reason for the gender disparity in our profession. Studies have shown that on the basis of identical job applications, women are judged as less competent and deserving of a lower starting salary. This phenomenon and its knock-on effects must be recognised and remedied through proactive measures.

It’s not all doom and gloom. In recent years there has been increasing acknowledgement of the very real obstacles facing women in our profession. This awareness has been driven by the efforts of organisations such as the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women and the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Chapter for Women in Astronomy, of which I am the current Chair.

The ASA Chapter for Women in Astronomy
The ASA Chapter for Women in Astronomy was formed in 2009 with two primary aims: (i) to monitor the status of women in our professional community and (ii) to encourage appropriate representation of women in positions of seniority and influence. We provide networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities for our members through an annual ‘Women in Astronomy Workshop’. Now in its fourth year, this meeting brings together approximately 80-100 astronomers from around Australia to take part in facilitated discussions, professional coaching and networking. It is a popular event, which provides a supportive and empowering environment to discuss and plan actions towards gender equity.

This year’s workshop, entitled ‘We are all made of stars’, is taking part this week – on 28 and 29 August – at the Australian National University. This year’s focus will be to identify positive changes that will establish equity and diversity within Australian astronomy.

Participants will take part in practical sessions including association tests on race and gender, discussion sessions on causal or ‘normalised’ prejudices and role-playing of tricky situations. Guest speakers include Elizabeth Broderick: the Australian Human Rights Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Cordelia Fine: academic and author of “Delusions of Gender” and Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash: Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women.

A new national initiative: The Pleiades Awards
At this year’s workshop, we are also launching a national gender diversity initiative called The Pleiades Awards. Aimed at astronomy departments and research institutes in Australia, the Pleiades Awards provide a framework for organisations to monitor and improve the status of women.

Following the nomenclature of the U.K.’s Athena SWAN gender equity scheme, there are three levels of Pleiades Award: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Full details are available on our website.

Bronze is the entry-level award for organisations that have examined their current conduct against the aims of the Chapter, developed a credible plan of action towards states best practices and demonstrated commitment to implement changes consistently across the organisation including a clear line of responsibility.

The Silver award will be given to organisations with a sustained record, of at least two years, monitoring the conduct of the organisation and working towards best practices. The Silver level also recognises leadership in promoting examples of best practice to other organisations in the astronomy community.

The Gold Pleiades award will recognise a truly outstanding and sustained commitment to best practice in relation to gender equity. Attaining this level is very challenging and a Gold Pleiades is an exceptional accomplishment.

There is no limit to the number of awards that can be given per year and our aim is that every astronomy research institute in Australia will begin to work through the award levels this year.

Is this really needed?
Many of Australia’s science leaders are aware of the problems in our system and are committed to tackling them. But it is still all too common for our Chapter to receive first-hand accounts of bullying, harassment and marginalisation. This will only stop when organisations are held accountable for the work environment and culture they generate (or tolerate).

I have heard accounts of senior scientists publicly diminishing efforts by our members to improve their workplace environments. I speak to professional, smart, confident women who feel alone and disempowered, simply because the majority of good people are either unaware or are simply doing nothing to support them.

The Pleiades Awards scheme is a step towards unifying the efforts of our Chapter nationwide. For this reason, I hope that the Pleiades Awards is embraced universally so that we are able to provide a practical and supportive framework for organisations to channel their efforts and towards creating sustainably better workplaces.

In the foreground a woman stands with her hands on her hips, there are large, while telescope antennas in the background.

Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith. Photo: Philip Gostelow.

Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith is a research astronomer at CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science division in Sydney, Australia. She is the Project Scientist for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope, which is located in remote Western Australia. Her research spans several areas of Galactic astrophysics including the birth and death of stars and astrophysical masers. Lisa is involved in many aspects of the ASKAP project including commissioning, science readiness, science surveys and spectrum management. She also takes part in international science activities for the Square Kilometre Array including a science advisory role to the Australian Government. Lisa is passionate about communicating her science and is a keen advocate for astronomy in the media. She regularly presents around the world and takes part in educational outreach work in schools, including long-term partnerships in metropolitan Sydney and a remote aboriginal community in Western Australia. As Chair of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Chapter for Women in Astronomy, Lisa is a strong advocate for best practices in astronomy workplaces.

This blog post was originally published by Women in Science Australia.

Weekend with the stars

Dark foreground with the silhouette of a megalithic rock and trees on the horizon, and a starry sky above.

Stunning: the Milky Way over Uluru. Photo: Peter Ward.

National Science Week has just wrapped up for another year. One of the week’s final events was a special astronomy weekend at Uluru, in the heart of Australia’s red centre, that brought together some of Australia’s leading astronomers with people keen to learn more about our Universe.

Here, our own Professor Ray Norris gives his account of this special weekend with the stars…

For the closing weekend of National Science Week (22-24 August 2014), I was lucky enough to be part of a brilliant astronomical outreach event at Uluru (Ayers Rock).

It had been widely advertised and so the resort was packed — not just with amateur astronomers but with families and individuals who wanted to combine a trip to this national icon with a taste of what cutting-edge science has to offer.

For three days my colleagues and I gave talks and participated in discussions, gave guided tours of the sky, and just sat and chatted with people over the odd beer or two.

Professor Steven Tingay from Curtin University got schoolkids and grandfathers working together to build a real working radio telescope.

Professor Bryan Gaensler from Sydney University showed how the extreme Universe can stretch our minds, while Professor Rachel Webster from Melbourne University exposed the dark side of the Universe.

And I described the depth and complexity of ancient Aboriginal astronomical knowledge, which has not only provided Aboriginal people with calendars and navigation, but shows how Aboriginal people thousands of years ago figured out how the sky works.

Five people on stage: one standing and two seated on each of two lounge chairs.

Dr Karl with (from left) Rachel Webster, Steven Tingay, Ray Norris and Bryan Gaensler. Photo: Kate Gunn.

The highlight for me was probably the panel sessions, in which members of the audience would toss us some curly question about the Universe, invariably resulting in an argument between the astronomers on stage, brilliantly hosted by science celebrity Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. “What’s the next Big Discovery?” “Dark Matter!”, “Dark Energy”, “No it’s something we haven’t thought of yet!”

Or maybe the highlight was when someone over dinner asked me about the expansion of the Universe, something that had puzzled them for years: “Where’s the centre of the expansion? What’s it expanding in to?”. Questions like these are bread and butter to most astrophysicists, and it’s incredibly satisfying to work through that knowledge in a one-on-one discussion with someone with a thirst for understanding.

Or was the highlight standing under the ink-black sky, pointing out the Aboriginal ‘Emu in the Sky’ constellation, hearing the unprompted gasps of amazement as people suddenly ‘got it’ for the first time. No, don’t look at the stars, look at the dark spaces in between, and it’s not that big, it’s T-H-A-T big!

Or perhaps the highlight was when I was describing my own research on the evolution of galaxies, and I suddenly saw it from the perspective of the audience.

In our work-life as astrophysicists, we tend to immerse ourselves so deeply into our subject, so focused on the details, that we sometimes lose sight of why this is important, how privileged we are to be employed to tackle some of the biggest questions in the history of the Universe. One of the things I love about outreach is that it reminds me why I do astrophysics!

There were many other highlights, too numerous to list here.

Transplanting cutting-edge astrophysical knowledge into a magical place with an incredible landscape and stunning skies, immersed in an Indigenous tradition going back thousands of years, was a brilliant coup. It resulted from a partnership between CAASTRO (the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics), with which the astronomers are affiliated, and Voyages, the company that manages Ayers Rock Resort.

As we caught our plane back to Sydney, I found out from my fellow passengers, who had been in the audience, that they had enjoyed it as much as me! But I wonder if they realised that I learned as much from the weekend as they had?

8 stunning sky shots win David Malin Awards 2014

Swirling dust and star-forming gas, solar explosions and dancing dishes. These are among the eight photographs and videos that have won top honours in this year’s David Malin Awards, Australia’s premier astrophotography competition.

Renowned photographer Dr David Malin judged the awards, which are run by the Central West Astronomical Society.

“The winning entries show both technical skill and an ability to capture the beauty of the sky in a visually pleasing way,” said John Sarkissian, CSIRO Operations Scientist at Parkes radio telescope – ‘the Dish’ – and organiser of the awards.

“More than 200 entries were submitted this year. With such stiff competition, to have received any one of these awards is a great honour. Congratulations to all of the finalists and winners.”

And the winners are…

Winning photographs and videos in the David Malin Awards 2014. Click on the images in the gallery above for larger versions.

Overall winner and winner Deep Sky category: ‘Dust and Gas’, Paul Haese

The Deep Sky category is for photographs taken with a telescope. Paul Haese’s winning entry shows the Great Nebula in the constellation Orion, a star-forming region located 1,300 light years from Earth. The nebula is 24 light years across and Paul’s image shows all the dust and gas in the region.

“This is the best true-colour image of the Orion nebula I have seen for a long time,” said David Malin. “It has everything. The basics are well covered by a realistic-looking colour balance and the dynamic range, which makes the heart of the nebula look brighter than everything else, which is as it should be. But the other things are right too, including the delicate, faint nebulosity that fills the field and the careful handling of the bright stars, which don’t dominate the image. Fantastic!”

Winner Wide-Field category: ‘Dusty Heart of the Milky Way’, Phil Hart

“This is a two-frame mosaic of the bright and dusty central regions of our Milky Way Galaxy. The view is toward the centre of the Galaxy in the direction of the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpius,” said Phil Hart. The Wide-Field category is for photographs taken without the use of a telescope.

Winner Open Theme – The Moon category: ‘Marine Moonset’, Phil Hart

This year’s open-themed section sought innovative and imaginative images of the Moon, in any of its phases and guises. Phil Hart’s winning entry captured the full Moon as it set over the shipping channel in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay, as seen from St Kilda an hour before sunrise on 14 May 2014.

Winner Solar System – Hires category: ‘Mars 2014’, Stefan Buda

The Solar System – Hires category is for high-resolution images involving subjects that appear smaller than the diameter of the full Moon.

“Every two years and two months, the Earth and Mars approach each other. This image represents a record of the appearance of the planet Mars between January and May 2014,” said Stefan Buda of his winning entry.

Winner Solar System – Wide-Field category: ‘Prominence’, Paul Haese

The Solar System – Wide-Field category is for wide-field shots of scenes greater than the diameter of the full Moon.

“The Sun is a dynamic and active star,” said Paul Haese. “From time to time we see massive prominences that are released from the Sun’s surface. This shot shows a massive prominence that was released on 8 October 2013.”

Winner Photo Editor’s Choice: ‘The Horsehead and Flame Nebulas’, David Fitz-Henry

Steve Grove, Photographic Manager with News Corporation Australia, chose David Fitz-Henry’s shortlisted image for this year’s ‘Photo Editor’s Choice’ award.

The Horsehead Nebula is a dark nebula in the constellation of Orion. It lies approximately 1,500 light years from Earth. The Flame Nebula lies to the lower-left of the image and is part of the same molecular cloud complex.

Winner Animated Sequences – Scientific category: ‘Shine On’, Peter Ward

Scientific animations are short sequences that have an obvious scientific purpose. These sequences usually require great skill and/or perseverance in first obtaining the data and then in collating them to reveal an aspect of scientific merit.

Peter Ward’s winning entry is a time-lapse sequence of the solar chromosphere. Individual sequences were taken over several weeks, around Easter 2014.

Winner Animated Sequences – Aesthetic category: ‘Dance of the Dishes’, Alex Cherney

Aesthetic sequences are animations that are visually pleasing in some way, where the use of appropriate music and editing is encouraged, but always with a strong astronomical component.

“Very smoothly edited and professional-looking sequences of the [CSIRO] Australia Telescope Compact Array telescopes at work, and I especially like the fish-eye sequences of the dishes nodding at each other as they scan the Milky Way. Great stuff,” commented David Malin.

David Malin Awards 2014 on show

All of the shortlisted and winning entries are included in a year-long exhibition at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory’s Visitors Centre from 20 July 2014. A second touring exhibition, organised by the Powerhouse Museum, will travel to selected venues beginning with Sydney Observatory in August 2014.

The David Malin Awards are run as part of the Central West Astronomical Society’s annual AstroFest. They are supported in 2014 by CSIRO, Canon Australia, Parkes Shire Council and Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

If you liked these photos, take a look at our previous post on the shortlisted entries in this year’s awards: ‘Catching stars’.

Entry to the Parkes Observatory Visitors Centre is free; it’s open daily from 8.30am to 4.15pm. For more information see www.csiro.au/parkes.


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