Planetarium a giant leap for Charleville

Australia's largest planetarium gets first use in moon landing party


Life & Style
Scientists from along Australia's east coast - Jake Clark, USQ, Toowoomba; Sadegh Imani and Erik Streed, Griffith University, Brisbane; Jyotsna Batra, QUT, Brisbane; Nathaniel Butterworth, University of Sydney, NSW, and Duane Hamacher, Melbourne University, Vic - had crowds enthralled all weekend at the Cosmos Centre. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

Scientists from along Australia's east coast - Jake Clark, USQ, Toowoomba; Sadegh Imani and Erik Streed, Griffith University, Brisbane; Jyotsna Batra, QUT, Brisbane; Nathaniel Butterworth, University of Sydney, NSW, and Duane Hamacher, Melbourne University, Vic - had crowds enthralled all weekend at the Cosmos Centre. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

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Although not yet open, the planetarium at Charleville's Cosmos Centre revealed its star potential at the observatory's astronomical 50th anniversary moon landing party on the weekend.

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Although not yet open, the planetarium at Charleville's Cosmos Centre revealed its star potential at the observatory's astronomical 50th anniversary moon landing party on the weekend.

As well as highlighting the ability it will offer for the nation's many thousands of stargazers to learn more about their universe and others, the largest planetarium in Australia holds a key to focusing future tourism and scientific interest in the district.

Cosmos Centre coordinator Mike Dalley, busy catering for a huge upsurge in interest in all things celestial on the weekend, said it supported their strength as an important part of tourism in outback Queensland.

Read more: Happy hour for outback tourism

"We offer so much more than an astronomical tour," he said.

"The six scientists who've come here this weekend, they strengthen our image in academia too.

"We have a geneticist, an astro-physicist, the leading cultural astronomer in Australia, a geophysicist, an atomic physicist, and a mechanical engineer - it's a heavy-hitting list."

They brought with them knowledge to share not only with Charleville's schoolchildren and the general public but with Cosmos Centre staff, who Mr Dalley said were 'sponges' soaking up the knowledge the experts undertaking the latest research in their fields were offering.

Mr Dalley said this would in turn strengthen their daily tours.

Also boosting the centre's appeal will be the planetarium with its 15m dome and comfortable seating for 50, the equivalent of a night tour audience.

The Brisbane planetarium has a 12.5m dome.

Murweh Shire Council's director of corporate services Ken Timms said while it would ensure people didn't go away disappointed if cloud cover meant the cancellation of a night tour, it would also give the centre scope to run shows from lunch time through to the evening, offering an additional attraction.

Mr Dalley added that this would come into its own in summer when visitors would be looking to get out of the heat and flies.

Six projecters will be working together to transport viewers through an immersive show screened on a two-skin dome many won't realise is based on the geodesic designs in use at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

High tea with visiting scientists was held beneath the unfinished dome.

High tea with visiting scientists was held beneath the unfinished dome.

Mr Timms said the alternative, a fibreglass top, either built on site or in sections and transported, would have tripled the price.

The outer layer is vinyl and the inside dome, working on negative pressure, that images will be projected onto, will be made of sail material.

The final cost of the planetarium is expected to be just under $1m. The Murweh Shire Council has contributed half the cost and the rest comes from two state government grants, through Building our Regions and Works for Queensland.

A few of those taking part in the Cosmos Centre's One Giant Leap weekend festivities got their first glimpse of the spacy site when they attended high tea with the six scientists on Friday afternoon.

Mr Dalley said the soft opening would probably take place in two months time.

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