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Old 15-03-2013, 12:01 AM
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rogerg (Roger)
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A sad day for Perth

I'd just like to comment that I think it's a sad day for Perth and Perth Observatory. Today the final two professional research astronomers ended their positions at the observatory. Funding cut.

I don't remember exact figures but from what I remember somewhere around the early 80's the observatory had 20 odd staff and was then cut down somewhat. Recently it's had three permanent full time astronomers now just one to run all public outreach. Seems unsustainable doesn't it

Only time will tell what becomes of the observatory, but we can only hope it's doors stay open, and it's historic equipment/artefacts are kept and maintained in one way or another available to the public for future generations, not sold or scrapped.

I love hosting tour groups regularly at the observatory but on a day like this can't help but feel a bit down about it.

Regards,
Roger.
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Old 15-03-2013, 12:06 AM
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I don't blame you Roger, it certainly would be a sad day if it ceased to exist.

Leon
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Old 15-03-2013, 12:31 AM
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really dont know what to say about that roger.......... would there have been anything anybody, or group could have done about it?
just playing devils advocate but was the observatory still relevant?
please understand that i dont know, but i know my friend and fellow iis'er peter has done a lot of research at the observatory some years ago
it is always sad for any science fund to be cut and worse cancelled
it is sad
pat
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Old 15-03-2013, 12:33 AM
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Perth Observatory 1 April 2013 - 24 May 2013

http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/news...rofest/awards/

So ... does this mean that the exhibit will not be there?
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Old 15-03-2013, 12:58 AM
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rogerg (Roger)
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really dont know what to say about that roger.......... would there have been anything anybody, or group could have done about it?
just playing devils advocate but was the observatory still relevant?
I don't necessarily have a problem with the argument some have that the observatory is no longer relevant for research. But I think it has enormous potential for outreach, tourism, and mixed activities (not just looking at the stars) while keeping the history in place. I would have liked to see at least one of the research positions converted to a new position to assist expanding those other possibilities.

I have been to many observatories and planetariums OS which locals and tourists flock to, but aren't at all involved in research because of their location and other factors. I think Perth Observatory has similar potential.

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http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/news...rofest/awards/

So ... does this mean that the exhibit will not be there?
Yes it will be, and volunteers are helping man it.

Please read what I have written, not between the lines - it is two research positions that ended today, the announce,net of which was made a couple of months back, the final two research positions, it is not the closing of the observatory, at this stage.
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Old 15-03-2013, 01:33 AM
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Hi Roger,

It is, indeed, a sad day. Having worked at the observatory, part time, for nearly 11 years (beginning in the late 80's) with Peter Birch, as an amateur doing professional science, it saddens me greatly. Actually, I was the first ever volunteer observer, and from that the volunteer program began. This is all rather depressing, particularly considering that I was going to undertake another project in cataloguing the centres of photographic plates, that Ralph had asked me to do a few months ago (I was only waiting for my wrist to recover from surgery). Sadly, that project won't happen now. I spoke to Ralph this morning and he didn't seem too happy, being his last day. But then, who would be, retiring from one's passion.

There are a few rumours that are going around, some from informed sources, and I am investigating their validity through my local member of parliament, with whom I have good relations, and who is rather sympathetic to the amateur cause. It was this MP that eventually got my street light shaded, allowing me to finally go ahead and build my observatory.

My main fears are:

1. That the library collection (built up over 100 years) will be broken up or disposed of completely, apart from the rare valuable books, of course. I completed a Diploma in Library and Information Services last year and I know that Libraries tend to "weed out" old books that have no intrinsic value. So if the library ends up at the State Library, a lot of those books will be lost, as they may not understand their true historical value as a whole. After all, they do have limited space. The best outcome, IMO, would be for the entire collection to be housed at Curtin University, on the understanding that they don't break up the collection. It is an historically important collection.

2. What will happen to the glass plates? There is over 100 years of glass plates and these are still valuable for determining proper motion of stars, which is why Ralph wanted to catalogue the centres, as he was still getting requests from OS for data. It would be great to see these plates scanned and stored online for future use. This is one of the many suggestions I have put to my local MP.

3. What will happen to all the historic equipment? More than likely this will end up being sold off or buried in some museum dungeon, never to see the light of day again. Or worse, scrapped completely. At least the pieces that have no real value.

4. What will happen to all the other equipment that has no intrinsic value, but may have a value to amateurs. This is another area I am investigating, as I would dread that some of this equipment would simply be scrapped, as it has no actual value.

5. What will happen with the Lowell telescope? It isn't owned by Perth Observatory. I have emailed Lowell for their comment on this. Actually, I am visiting Lowell in August this year, after I have been to Stellafane. Roll on August!

Sadly, I think this is the beginning of the end for Perth Observatory and has been coming for a long time. After all, the WA premier (1988 to 1990) Peter Dowding wanted the place closed back in the late 80's. It was through heavy lobbying by myself and others that got that decision reversed, eventually. It was for this reason that I finally got to fulfil my dream of working there, even if on a voluntary basis.

It was a previous Director of Perth Observatory, Dr Ivan Nikolov that introduced me to astronomy when I was aged 12. He was a friend of one of my family members. I had spent some time at Perth Observatory way back then and I can remember the computer system that took up the room that is now used as the museum of historical pieces. I remember being so awed by this "gigantic" computer! It seems so unreal to consider that an average desktop has far greater power than that had. But, then again, my watch has more computing power that the Voyager spacecraft, such are the advances in technology.

I also saw my first comet from Perth Observatory as well. I think it was Comet Bennet, but don't quote me on that. I just remember the sky being so dark and the comet being so prominent in the sky.

When working their I had some unusually incidents happen, mainly to do with equipment breakdown. I was also involved in several interesting projects and have been recognised for my contribution, small that it was. But it is neat to see my name on some international scientific papers, at least, on a personal level, and co-author on another.

It is depressing to think what may happen now. I know I am feeling quite down about it. Well, actually, I have been fighting severe depressed for a while anyway, this just doesn't help.

If I find out anything concrete I will post on IIS.

Cheers Peter

Last edited by Stardrifter_WA; 15-03-2013 at 02:27 AM.
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Old 15-03-2013, 01:45 AM
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Originally Posted by rogerg View Post

I have been to many observatories and planetariums OS which locals and tourists flock to, but aren't at all involved in research because of their location and other factors. I think Perth Observatory has similar potential.
I agree Roger. In fact I have submitted a marketing plan to the Government to this end. I originally wrote this plan years ago, when I was doing marketing management studies, and recently revisited it and updated it. The observatory has much potential in outreach, but lacks any real interest in Government to retain it.

I fear that the observatory may become a thorn in the Governments side when CALM is split up. The Observatory portfolio has been moved through a number of departments over the years, although I don't actually know how many.

I just hope somebody in Government picks up the recommendations that I have made. But, I doubt it! Then again, one has to try, as I can't just sit here and do nothing.

Unfortunately, I think it is a losing battle, particularly given the Governments commitment to the SKA. It is a new direction for science and an area that Perth Observatory just doesn't entirely fit into.

Cheers Peter

Last edited by Stardrifter_WA; 15-03-2013 at 01:56 AM.
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Old 15-03-2013, 09:37 AM
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Only time will tell what becomes of the observatory, but we can only hope it's doors stay open
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Originally Posted by rogerg View Post
Please read what I have written, not between the lines

Actually, I did... the first statement confused me. I thought that keeping the "doors open" was also coming under pressure.

Any-hoo, I hope the observatory stays open for a long-time. A real shame that in a country that collect such a large percentage from its citizens on taxes, it can't find funds to keep something so important open.

OIC!
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Old 15-03-2013, 10:44 AM
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Actually, I did... the first statement confused me. I thought that keeping the "doors open" was also coming under pressure.

Any-hoo, I hope the observatory stays open for a long-time. A real shame that in a country that collect such a large percentage from its citizens on taxes, it can't find funds to keep something so important open.

OIC!
My reply to your reply was inappropriate, apologies for that.

Thanks for clarifying the situation. We are very much looking forward to having the exhibition at the observatory. I think it's the most appropriate place in the state to host it.
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Old 15-03-2013, 10:49 AM
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I agree Roger. In fact I have submitted a marketing plan to the Government to this end. I originally wrote this plan years ago, when I was doing marketing management studies, and recently revisited it and updated it. The observatory has much potential in outreach, but lacks any real interest in Government to retain it.

I fear that the observatory may become a thorn in the Governments side when CALM is split up. The Observatory portfolio has been moved through a number of departments over the years, although I don't actually know how many.

I just hope somebody in Government picks up the recommendations that I have made. But, I doubt it! Then again, one has to try, as I can't just sit here and do nothing.
We seem to have somewhat similar visions for the place. I'm sure others do too. It is hard to know how best to channel one's enthusiasm and inspiration to meet the best end. And as you say, there's a lot of might against us in government.


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Unfortunately, I think it is a losing battle, particularly given the Governments commitment to the SKA. It is a new direction for science and an area that Perth Observatory just doesn't entirely fit into.

Cheers Peter
I think it's a shame the Perth Observatory missed the boat on being involved in the SKA one way or another. It could have been due constraints placed on them. Either way I think the observatory could have been an important piece of that SKA gig-saw.

Regards,
Roger.
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Old 15-03-2013, 01:20 PM
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We seem to have somewhat similar visions for the place. I'm sure others do too. It is hard to know how best to channel one's enthusiasm and inspiration to meet the best end. And as you say, there's a lot of might against us in government.

Regards,
Roger.
Hi Roger,

Yes, I am passionate about Perth Observatory, as it has had a profound influence on my life. Without Perth Observatory, and Dr Nikolov in particular, I may never have found my passion, as I was too stupid, as a kid, to realise that I had one.

There are things we can do to influence Government but it requires a commitment, which, sadly, many are not willing to make that commitment. Had I not made that commitment in the 80's I may never had had the opportunity to do professional work.

I have a number of ideas floating around in my mind and if handled correctly we could find benefits in fighting for retention of Perth Observatory. However, the fight this time isn't about research but outreach.

I am fighting, in my own way, but to really win we need numbers.

Cheers Peter
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Old 28-03-2013, 08:23 AM
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Toner Stevenson, Manager of the Sydney Observatory, has written an article about WA's Astronomical Blunder.

You can read it here:

West Australia's Astronomical Blunder.
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Old 28-03-2013, 05:41 PM
hunty (Rob)
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Perth Observatory's lost astronomers

Hi folks,

I just wanted to add weight to this thread by expressing my dissappointment at losing our two astronomers. I'm a recently inducted volunteer and Host for the Star Viewing Nights at the PO, and I think that the miniscule savings of two salaries is a backward and short-sighted decision, clearly made for other political trade-offs that the GP will never know the truth about.

As others have said, there's an important legacy to be protected at PO, and the future is very uncertain. I hope reason will eventually prevail, and some arrangements will be put in place to continue at least the valuable public outreach offered by the PO.

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Old 28-03-2013, 09:49 PM
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I have been in contact with a parliamentarian about this issue and what I have heard so far is a little disturbing, but NOT concrete information. Further information is pending, but the wheels of government are glacially slow, it seems.

There are a number of rumours around and I put no faith in any of them, at least, until I get official confirmation that they are correct.

This isn't the first time PO has been under threat, however, it never went the distance in removing all scientific staff before. In the late 80's they reduced the staff by about half, although don't quote me on that, as I don't have the exact number. I just knew that a lot of people who worked there then. I fear this all a bad omen.

What I find particularly disturbing is that the government hasn't had any 'flack ' over the cessation of science. In the late 80's when I fought hard in the war to save the observatory, there were a lot of people involved, of which I was but one. My feeling is there is a level of apathy from Joe Public this time around, who just don't care, as they have become immune to government machinations, over time.

We as amateurs have a vested interest and care. We can see the damage being caused, however, we are but a minority and our pleas are falling on deaf ears. At least, so far, my pleas are falling on deaf ears.

CALM (the department responsible for PO) probably just want to divest themselves of a problem child, before the proposed split up of CALM, that the government had announced before the election.

My main concern now is to fight for the retention of the historically important bibliographic collection and the photographic glass plate collection. To lose these important collections to private hands, or indeed discarded, would be criminal, in my view.

If or when I find out further information I will let you know.

Peter
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Old 28-03-2013, 10:25 PM
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I know of $700k being taken away from one Govt grant community based program to fund the Kalgoorlie Mining Hall of Fame,several million dollars to keep Muresk alive to be run as a potential mining training facility even though it'll continue to be run at a loss. $27 million to refurbish Barnies parliamentary offices, I wonder who's twinkling in who's pocket and I can't believe Perth people voted Barnie and Fred back in again.
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:40 PM
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$27 million to refurbish Barnies parliamentary offices
That one is the biggest slap in the face. Unbelievable.
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:48 PM
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The cost of Barnies Palace would have funded PO for another 90 years, on today's prices. At $300,000 per year running costs it really is peanuts compared with what government wastes.

But, what can you do? I could tell you, but it's unprintable!!!!!~ But, I am sure you get the picture.
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:52 PM
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But, then again, you can't blame the government for not funding science, as the WA government has invested a lot into radio astronomy. Optical astronomy in WA has passed its prime.

That would change if we had a Chelyabinsk type meteor land in WA, preferrable on Barnies Palace.

We face a real threat from space, but the incidents are not frequent enough to worry governments, at least WA's government.
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Old 29-03-2013, 12:18 AM
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The response to Earth Hour was also pretty pathetic. I timelapsed the city before and after 8.30 pm and bugger all changed. BHP building switched off and a couple of others, but not much else. Sums up the government. If it's not directly related to development and adding to the coffers they don't seem to care
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Old 29-03-2013, 12:38 AM
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I think you have hit the nail on the head Peter that apathy is the biggest culprit. It's kind of like a cornflour mix, that the more you stir it the harder it gets. Probably the majority of people don't know about it either. The only way I heard the obs was closing it was on this site.

I would maybe hit a sore point but I' not trying to be rude when I put this forward here but hopefully it would give you some insight to the general way of thinking. Firstly, what is the point of it now?

We have the new stuff going on up north in the gascoyne so if this is the way astronomy is going shouldn't resources and the training of young astronomers be headed towards this type of astronomy?

Please forgive my ignorance but I have no idea what they are doing up there but this is the new kid on the block so to speak and from what I can gather is the future of astronomy. Does visual astronomy have a relevance in the future as technology becomes much more efficient than we could ever be?

By the way I do think it's cool that the cartes program I use has been produced by the hard work of fellow statesmen. That makes it something tangible for me and I appreciate it to no end. Maybe there's just no connection with the wider public. If you'd asked me 6mths ago before I started astronomy what the obs had done I'd just look at you blank face and shrug my shoulders. Nothing, nada, not one thing. Think about tell me what you think.

Sincerley
Simmo
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