'Secrets of the Universe' at Gosford
Submitted: Saturday, 19th March 2005 by Mike Salway

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David Reneke. Image credit: ABC website

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an audiovisual presentation on astronomy and space travel, called 'Secrets of the Universe'. The presentation was given by well-known astronomer and organiser of the 'Astronomy Outreach' program to schools, David Reneke, and was held at the Erina Centre at Erina Fair on the Central Coast of NSW.

David is a college lecturer on astronomy, a News Editor of SKY & SPACE magazine, a NASA representative in Australia for the Cassini mission, and talks on many radio shows each week, talking up astronomy and helping to popularise it and give simple explanations to the uninitiated in astronomy.

There were about 30-35 people in attendance, probably not the turnout that was hoped or expected, but the extremely hot temperatures that day (> 40degrees) may have stopped some people from making the trip out to Erina.

The show started at 6:30pm, with a screening of an episode of the great BBC series 'Space', hosted by actor Sam Neil, and discussed the topic 'Are We Alone?'.

At 7pm, David started his 'Secrets of the Universe' presentation, which was a slideshow running in the background with David discussing topics such as the formation of the universe, the formation of the solar system and planets, space travel and the possibility of human travel to other planets in our solar system, the moon and the conspiracy theories related to whether man actually did walk on the moon, the vast distances in our galaxy, and finished up with an interesting presentation on UFO sighting reports and the possibility of them being authentic.


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The "DustyScope"

There was plans to have an outside viewing session with a homemade 10" newt on a homemade EQ mount (called the "DustyScope"), but the weather ruined those plans so the show was wrapped up at around 8:30pm. A few people hung around for a while to look at the telescope or ask David some questions.

All in all, it was a pretty good night. David is as expected very knowledgeable on all subjects related to astronomy and has a very interesting background. The show appears to be targetted mainly at people new to astronomy or at people with a growing interest in space and astronomy, and I believe the presentation is also given to school children as part of David's 'Astronomy Outreach' program.

There wasn't a lot of new stuff to be learnt by people who already have a strong interest in astronomy and have already done a lot of research about the universe and solar system, but the show is still worth it for the interesting UFO sighting discussions and the fabulous images in the slideshow courtesy of NASA and Hubble.

I could see that in the crowd there were some family groups who got a lot of out of the night, and afterwards were talking about buying a telescope etc, so if the aim of the show is to get more people into Astronomy, I think it did a good job of that. David also warned against buying cheap (< $500) telescopes in Australia, which is of course very good advice to those who want to get into the hobby.

I believe the show is touring around the place, so if comes near you, I'd recommend it, especially if you're able to take family members along who may not understand your fascination/passion or interest in astronomy.

I had a chat to David afterwards, and he was aware of this site, IceInSpace, from various forum postings around the place, so that was pleasing to know too :)

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