Upcoming Events

Image above: Aida Parker

Telescope Viewing Night at
Sydney Observatory
(Members Only)

Monday 5th July 2021

5 to 8:30pm 

Bring your telescope, help others use theirs, and get acquainted with the night sky on this viewing night. There will be short talks by members, opportunities to learn new skills and even if you have never looked through binoculars, or dont have your own telescope, this will be a night to use our club telescope.

Wear something warm, bring a thermos and if you are driving there is meter parking on Observatory Hill.

Our  secretary will email more details closer to the date.


Ian Kemp started his professional life in academic research - with a degree, PhD and postdoc in Materials Science.  He then went off to work in Industry and government for a while (25 years) before getting back to research and obtaining a Masters degree in Astronomy. He currently works as a research scientist at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth - working partly on ‘big data’ (astronomically large data!) and partly on astrophysics research. 

Cataclysmic Variable Stars: Searching for ripples in the cosmic Niagara Falls with Dr Ian Kemp

Monday  2 August 2021


This talk is about “UGSU cataclysmic variables” - one of the most interesting species in the variable star zoo (in my opinion). They are binary systems, in which a red star spills material onto a white dwarf, giving rise to periodic massive eruptions which can brighten the system from mag 15 to mag 9, easily within the range of a backyard telescope.  They are very important systems in astronomy, because they are the precursors of the type 1a supernovae, which are used to measure the Hubble-Lemaître constant, and the accelerating expansion of the universe.  The light curves of these systems are very interesting - they show ‘wobbles’ which reveal a lot of what’s going on in the binary system and the accretion disk.  In 2019 I observed a southern sky system called VW Hyi, which was first characterised by astronomers from New Zealand and Australia. In addition to the ‘usual’ variations - known as ’superhumps’, I found hints of a different type of variation, but the data was not conclusive enough to confirm it.  So this year, with some partners in crime, I’m collecting and analysing data on a number of similar systems to look for extra detail in the light curves of these interesting systems.  If you are inspired by this talk you can join the hunt - VW Hyi itself is about to go into super-outburst again right about now.


Members will be sent a Zoom link. Not a member? Email sydneycityskywatchers@gmail.com to request to join this event.


Image: Anaxagoras (Eduard Lebiedzki / Public Domain)

The Ancient Discovery that the Moon Shines with Reflected Light

Monday 6th September 2021

6:30 to 8pm 

Presented by Rick Benitiz.


Rick Benitiz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and he has extensively researched and published about the ancient philosophers, classics and ancient history. He is also an amateur astronomer and enjoys observing astronomical events as well as contemplating the origins of our knowledge about them. In this presentation he will give an insight into the past through the story of an ancient philosopher's discovery of how the Moon shines.

Members will be sent a Zoom link. Not a member? Email sydneycityskywatchers@gmail.com to request to join the society, or this event.


Paul Curnow [B.ED] has been an astronomy lecturer at the Adelaide Planetarium since 1992. After nearly three decades of research, he is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on Australian Aboriginal night sky knowledge.


Paul has worked in conjunction with the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center Planetarium in Ohio,  served as a consultant on Indigenous Astronomy for the Australian Space Agency, appeared as the keynote speaker at the inaugural 2010 Lake Tyrrell Star Party in Sea Lake, Victoria and in 2011 was a special guest speaker at the Carter Observatory in Wellington, New Zealand.  Paul runs several popular courses for the public that focus on astronomy and ethnoastronomy, which primarily deals with how the night sky is seen by non-western cultures. Since 2012 Paul has Lectured for the ‘Astronomy & the Universe’ course (EDUC2066); and in 2019 for ‘Science’ (EDUC 2030) for the School of Education at the University of South Australia. Moreover, since 2021 he has been a member of the Andy Thomas Space Foundation Education Advisory Committee. Paul appears regularly in the media and has authored over 50 articles on astronomy.

Aboriginal Skies

Paul Curnow

Adelaide Planetarium

University of South Australia

Wednesday  6th October 2021


Aboriginal Australians have been looking at the night sky for thousands of years. During this time, they have been able to build up a complex knowledge of the stars and their movements. This connection with the night sky represents some of the earliest ponderings about the cosmos and was an effort to explain natural phenomena. Moreover, the stars were used for navigation, education, as a seasonal guide to the availability of foods, in addition to reinforcing cultural identity and spirituality. In this lecture, I will talk about some of the Aboriginal Dreaming stories; their ‘dark pattern’ shapes, such as the ‘celestial emu’; the names they gave to the stars and the differences between the way the sky is viewed in comparison to the classical 88-constellations used by contemporary astronomers.  

Members will be sent a Zoom link. Not a member? Email sydneycityskywatchers@gmail.com to request to join the society, or this event.


Computing the Universe

Date TBC - this talk was rescheduled due to Covid-19 lockdown in WA.

Dr Paul Hancock will explain how radio telescopes collect information invisible to the human eye using techniques very different from optical astronomy. Optical telescopes can rely on physical lenses to collect and focus light and create images. Sadly there is no physical equivalent of a radio lens, and so the focusing and imaging of the radio light must be done virtually by a computer.


The new generation of radio telescopes are made with hundreds to hundreds of thousands of sensors, each collecting streams of radio waves. Modern radio telescopes thus require an enormous amount of computing resources just to make images. Radio astronomy is thus a very computational endeavour requiring a niche combination of astrophysics and computing skills to execute most projects.


This talk will cover some of the basic ideas of radio astronomy, discuss the current hot science topics, and show how Australian researchers are making the most of supercomputing facilities to support the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescopes, as well as how this all feeds into the construction of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. The photograph By Natasha Hurley-Walker is of the MWA prototype.

How to join in this live talk? Members will be sent a Zoom Link.

Not a Member? Email: sydneycityskywatchers@gmail.com 24 hours prior with your name and a contact phone number.

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Sydney, NSW, Australia

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