Inland Astro-Trail

Cultural Tourism of Galactic Proportions
Imagine a route linking more than a dozen world-class research telescopes, numerous private observatories, and hundreds of astro-heritages sites in southeastern Australia’s rural Inland!

Imagine an app that tells you about them as you’re driving through beautiful countryside, a book with spaces for the astro-stamps your kids will collect,  and at the end of your day, a sky filled with more galaxies than you’ve ever seen before and local astronomers eager to tell you about them. Perhaps you’ll even be able to enjoy skystories, as told by local storytellers, while you sip a glass of local wine.

Imagine, too, that you were lured from the city smog to this wonder-filled Inland by photographs of the Milky Way captured by astro-photographers using telescopes along our Astro-Trail … and that now you’re taking similar star-filled photos yourself … even with your smart phone!

It’s  all possible! And we want to make it happen!

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The Inland Astro-Trail concept is one of many outcomes from our Skywriters Project’s Big Gig #1 in Parkes, New South Wales, on 8/9 July 2017. In brief, we want to develop an astro-tourism trail linking all the astronomical sites between CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri, in northern New South Wales, and Mt Stromlo Observatory in the Australian Capital Territory, within a region we’ve called Southeastern Australia’s 700 Kilometre Array (700KA).

Why? Because we reckon that our astonishingly dark Inland night sky, and the 60,000 or more years of astro-cultural heritage associated with it, need to be more fully recognised and celebrated – both by Australians and by people from all over the world! We want tens of thousands of visitors to the Inland each year to witness the full glory of our sky at night and to experience its unique cultural heritage, as told by the Inland’s own storytellers, both indigenous and non-indigenous.

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Our astro-tourism panel at the Skywriter Project’s ‘Big Gig’ in Parkes, 8 July 2017. From left, astronomer Les Dalrymple (Billimari), the Mayor of Parkes Clr Ken Keith OAM, astronomers Donna Burton (Coonabarabran) and Peter Starr (Dubbo), and cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman (Wiradjuri Astronomy Project, Orange). Photo by Merrill Findlay.

And now the Skywriters Project has taken the first steps towards achieving this goal!

  • We’ve established a closed FB group (@InlandAstroTrail) for people interested in discussing this project and contributing to it
  • several Inland astronomers, including Donna Burton from Milroy Observatory, cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman, Peter Starr (Tenby Observatory Group), and Ray Pickard (Bathurst Observatory Research Facility) are lobbying fellow astronomers to support the concept
  • several Skywriters, including journalists Yvette Aubusson-Foley in Dubbo, Margaret Jakovac in Blayney, and Merrill Findlay in Forbes, are planning a publication and app. to promote the proposed astro-trail
  • and those of us with good business heads are developing a formal business plan as a prelude to seeking grants, sponsors, and more in-kind support

But there’s much more yet to be done before we see our Inland Astro-Trail on official tourist maps!

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Our proposed trail would, of course, include CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory and ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, as well as the many private observatories within the 700KA region, such as Peter Starr’s Dubbo Observatory and Warrumbungle Observatory, Ray Pickard’s Bathurst Observatory Research Facility, Les Dalrymple’s new observatory near Billimari, astro-heritage sites throughout the region from where Wiradjuri and Gomeroi astronomers have been gazing at the stars for millennia, and many other sites from which migrants and their settler-descendants have been observing our southern sky since the nineteenth century.

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If you’re interested in this project and would like to support it, please contact us at skywritersproject@gmail.com, or via FB messenger, or ask to join our closed FB group @InlandAstroTrail.

Credits for featured image at top of page
Detail of a mural in the corridor of Weddin Shire Council’s Community Hub, in Grenfell, New South Wales, featuring a quotation from the first stanza of Henry Lawson‘s 1888 ballad, ‘A May Night On The Mountains’. Lawson was born in Grenfell in 1867. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Page established 27 July 2017. Revised 28 July 2017.

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