The Big Skies Collaboration brings together arts practitioners, astronomers and local communities to explore and celebrate people’s relationships with the Cosmos within the 700 Kilometre Array (700KA) of observatories in inland rural New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Our mission is to inspire wonder, awe and lots of questions, and to offer country people scintillating cultural opportunities of a kind generally only available to city folk. Our Collaboration is expected peak in July 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk, which famously involved several of the radio telescopes in our 700KA. Our wish is that the Big Skies Collaboration creative interventions will bring lasting benefits to the communities involved, and perhaps even change people’s lives. Because such is the creative power of the arts and sciences.
So have you gazed at our unpolluted inland sky in wonder and awe like we have? Have you asked the big questions that the stars, planets and other celestial bodies provoke? Do you have compelling stories to recount about your own or other people’s relationships with the Cosmos? Do you want to share them? Yes? Then please tell us and become part of our Collaboration too.
Australia’s First Peoples began observing the sky from this part of our planet an estimated 50,000 years ago. Within the last few hundred years people from all over the world have settled the inland and marveled at our Southern Sky through the lenses of their own cosmologies: European, Chinese, Arab, Persian, Indian, and Islander, for example.
Professional astrophysicists and astronomers are now exploring this same sky in new ways with the many world class telescopes of our 700 Kilometre Array, and, from backyards, footpaths and parklands throughout the region amateur astronomers are observing celestial phenomena with their own telescopes or their naked eyes.
Big Skies Collaborators are working with these communities to creatively interpret some of their star stories through music, song, dance, physical theatre, the visual arts, creative writing, and/or new digital media. Expect to be excited, inspired, even provoked by the outcomes.
Please note: Big Skies Collaborators are, in general, using the date 50,000 years BP (Before Present) for the arrival of Australia’s first stargazers within our 700KA zone – even though some communities insist that their ancestors arrived much earlier than this. Recent reseach in population genetics, archaeolgy and other fields does not (yet?) support the older dates, however. But nor does it necessarily refute claims that Austrlia’s First Peoples arrived much earlier than 50,000 years ago. All it means is that, so far, no indisputable scientific evidence has been found to support the earlier dates. See, for example, O’Connell & Allen, 2015, ‘The process, biotic impact, and global implications of the human colonization of Sahul about 47,000 years ago,’ Journal of Archaeological Science, No. 56, pp. 73-84.
1. Detail of Hubble Telescope’s 2004 image of the Pleiades star cluster also known as NGC 1432/35 and M45.
2. The winter solstice sun rising over Seven Sisters Ridge, a Wiradjuri astronomy site near Yarrabandai, that is culturally connected to the mythic Seven Sisters of the Pleiades cluster, and the stories of the Seven Sisters Dreaming. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 21 July, 2015.
3. Detail of Hubble Telescope image of merging galaxy cluster Abell 520.
Site history: created in January 2016 by Big Skies Collaborator Merrill Findlay. Static front page added 28 June 2016 … and the renovations continue. Last updated 13 July 2016.