The Inland Astro-Tour is an astro-tourism, cultural heritage, STEAM outreach (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and sustainable development initiative to link, promote, utilise and conserve sites of astronomical significance in southeastern Australia’s rural inland for the benefit of rural and remote communities.
Read our founding vision here >>
August 2020: The IAT Discussion Paper: Dr Merrill Findlay, who first developed the IAT concept in 2016, is currently working on an enlarged vision of the Inland Astro-Tour and the many regional development opportunities it offers small inland communities. She was to present the draft document to the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) in Parkes over Easter 2020 but, unfortunately NACAA 2020 was cancelled because of COVID-19. The Discussion Paper will now be circulated later in 2020.
February 2020: Destination Network Country and Outback, one of six networks responsible for supporting the NSW tourism industry on behalf of the State Government, released its Night Skies Experience Concept Plan in February 2020 to introduce astro-tourism to tourism operators and to guide the development of night skies experiences throughout inland NSW.
January 2020: Read Stuart Pearson’s article, The Sky’s the Limit With Astro-Tourism (Western Advocate, 2 January 2020), on what the eclipse in July 2028 could mean for Inland communities along its path >>
About the Inland Astro-Tour initiative
The Inland Astro-Tour concept was first mooted at an event co-hosted by the Big Skies Collaboration‘s Skywriters Project in 2017. In brief, we want to develop an astro-tourism trail linking all the astronomical sites in southeastern Australia from CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri, in north-western New South Wales, to Mt Stromlo Observatory in the Australian Capital Territory. We’ve named this region the 700 Kilometre Array (700KA). And, after we’ve established the IAT in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, we want to extend it south into Victoria and South Australia and north into Queensland.
Why? Because we believe 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 by Australians and by stargazers from all over the world! We want people to be inspired by our big inland sky and to explore it in new and thrilling ways. And we want tens of thousands of visitors to experience the full glory of our sky and its unique cultural heritage, as told by the Inland’s own storytellers. We also want these visitors to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of the Inland’s rural and remote communities to ensure their future.
Our Inland Astro-Tour (IAT), as initially conceived, includes CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory and the Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, and ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, the upgraded Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) or UTMOST near Bungendore, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, ANU’s Mount Stromlo Observatory and the old tracking station sites in the Australian Capital Territory.
The IAT also includes many of the private observatories within the 700KA region, such as Millroy Observatory operated by astronomer Donna Burton at Coonabarabran, Peter Starr’s Dubbo Observatory and Warrumbungle Observatory, Ray Pickard’s Bathurst Observatory Research Facility, Les Dalrymple’s new observatory near Billimari, and the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club‘s facilities, for example. Plus astro-heritage sites where Wiradjuri and Gomeroi astronomers have observed the stars for millennia, and many other sites were migrants and their descendants have been observing our southern sky since the early nineteenth century.
Big Skies Collaboration’s Skywriters Project took the first steps towards making the Inland Astro-Tour routes a reality in 2017 by establishing a not-for-profit organisation, Inland Astro-Trail Incorporated. We held our first IAT Symposium and AGM in February 2019.
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. Last revised4 August 2020. On 4 May 2020 the term Astro-Trail was changed to Astro-Tour to better reflect the aspirations of contemporary travellers, most of whom visit the inland by road.
700KA map last updated January 2018.