Fifty years after construction started on the Green Point Observatory in Oyster Bay, the facility has become the envy of amateur astronomers throughout Australia.
About 70 members of the Sutherland Astronomical Society, some of whom are from St George and other parts of Sydney, gathered on March 4 to celebrate the major anniversary.
The wider community is invited to join in this success of “reaching for the stars” at a public open night on Saturday (March 25), which coincides with Earth Hour.
Visitors will be able to view stars, star clusters and nebulae through the 41cm Selby telescope operating in the Observatory Dome, the 35cm Napier telescope under the roll-off roof, and a variety of telescopes on the field.
There will be astronomy lectures. a barbecue, hot and cold food and drinks, books, posters and gifts on sale.
Entry is $12 for adults, $5 for children, $25 for a family and $5 for concession holders.
The observatory, at Green Point, at the corner of Caravan Head Road, is open for the event from 6pm to 11 pm and bookings are not required.
Sutherland Astronomical Society was formed in 1961 when a small group got together with the aim of constructing an observatory south of Georges River.
Until the late 1970s, the group was known as the James Cook Astronomers Club.
The 50th anniversary celebrations got off to an amusing start when society members set about unearthing a time capsule.
President Craig Goulden said a plaque referred to a time capsule being buried under the building in 1967.
“We dug the hole, but it wasn't there,” he said.
“One of the founding members later told us, ‘We never got round to doing it’.”
There was no slip-up on this occasion, with a time capsule, to be opened in 25 years time, safely deposited.
Mr Goulden told the gathering, “There are just over 50 amateur astronomical societies in Australia who would love to have the facilities we have here today”.
“With the completion of our extensions we have, available to all our members, the largest independent amateur observatory in Australia.
“This would not have been possible without the vision and foresight of our founding members, laying the foundations in 1967.”
Mr Goulden said a club was a valuable organisation to bring together people with a common interest.
“By the creation of a permanent physical home, a society has been built where those same people with shared interests can meet regularly in an environment they have constructed themselves, tailored precisely to peruse those common interests
“We are an organisation with a mission, which is to provide fellowship, facilities, and venues to foster the practice, education, and science of astronomy.
“I believe we are achieving this mission admirably.”
Green Point Observatory was constructed on land made available by Sutherland Shire Council.
The society holds public open nights, caters for group bookings and runs a nine-week Practical Astronomy course, with the next to start in August.