Pingelly lights up for Astrofest!

Published on Tuesday, 23 March 2021 at 11:00:00 AM

For a comprehensive photo album of Astrofest, visit the Shire of Pingelly's Facebook page here.

A bustling crowd of about 500 astronomy enthusiasts gathered at the Pingelly Recreation & Cultural Centre (PRACC) on Saturday 20 March for the astronomically awesome 2021 Pingelly Astrofest.

The University of Western Australia (UWA) Institute of Agriculture and the Shire of Pingelly joined forces to deliver the free, family-friendly astronomy festival.

 

Proudly supported by Lotterywest, 2021 Pingelly Astrofest attracted a constellation of stargazers new and experienced – including both locals and groups visiting from neighbouring towns and Perth.

The event was so popular with out-of-towners that the Pingelly Caravan Park sold-out days before, and local accommodation enjoyed a boost in reservations.

Shire of Pingelly President William Mulroney acknowledged that 2021 Pingelly Astrofest was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Shire’s collaboration and partnership with UWA.

“The connection with astronomy and science industry experts, as well as passionate residents and community groups leveraged an amazing opportunity to stage a unique visitor experience that showcases our community’s natural assets, as well as the acclaimed PRACC,” Mr Mulroney said.

The team from International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and volunteers set-up their state-of-the-art telescopes on the oval and generously shared their passion for space with the community throughout the night.

 

Despite some clouds forming earlier in the evening, UWA-based ICRAR Cosmos Consultant Greg Rowbotham said there were many wondrous sights of our night sky seen through the telescopes.

Since the Perth-based Astrofest was postponed until November 13, Mr Rowbotham said the WA astronomy community was especially enthused about coming to Pingelly.

ICRAR PhD student Kathryn Ross lived up to her self-professed title of “Mother of all Black Holes” by delighting the audience with her astronomy presentation in the Cultural Room.

Deputy Shire President Jackie McBurney said she was especially impressed by Ms Ross’ infectious enthusiasm and willingness to stay on and answer every single question. 

 

This was the first year Pingelly Astrofest has been held at the PRACC, after it was started at the UWA Farm Ridgefield and held in 2016 and 2018.

Although the event quickly outgrew its original location, UWA Farm Ridgefield was still front-and-centre with a popular information stall and craft workshop led by one half of the farm management team Cathy McKenna. 

“It was great to share information about the farm with curious visitors and also see lots of our neighbours and have a chat,” Mrs McKenna said.

 

The UWA Institute of Agriculture Director Professor Kadambot Siddique, who joined the Shire and Nyoongar elder Gary Bennell during the open speeches and Welcome to Country, said the event was an outstanding success. 

“Pingelly Astrofest is a true credit to excellent collaboration and hard work from the Shire, the Institute and ICRAR,” Professor Siddique said.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to enthuse youngsters about the role of science and technology.”

 

One of the most popular stalls was from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, which kept kids very busy with pipette art, viewing soil biota (and some surprise bug friends!) under the microscope, and exploring where plants grow and why soil pH and salinity matters.

UWA School of Earth Sciences Professor Marco Fiorentini delighted visitors with the Edward de Courcy Clarke Earth Science Museum collection of rocks, minerals and meteorites – some of the oldest materials in the universe.

Many gasps of surprise and delight could be heard from the Scitech shows held throughout the evening in the Bowling Club Bar, and there was always a line of children waiting to participate in their solar system workshops.

 

In addition to the views of the night sky through the telescopes outside, astrophotographer Roger Groom curated a fantastic photography exhibition in the sports hall and was very happy to discuss the awe-inspiring images.   

As soon as visitors arrived, they were greeted by some colourful characters from the Dr Who shop from avid local Whovian Elizabeth Trump.

 

The sports hall saw a plethora of market stalls run by local people and businesses offering food condiments, handmade and homemade products, crocheted and crafted items, face painting, as well as Pingelly memorabilia.

 

2021 Pingelly Astrofest was also an opportunity for the Pingelly Primary School P&C, Pingelly Tourism Group, Pingelly Arts and Craft Group, Pingelly Craft Centre and the PRACC Board to fundraise and raise their profile within the community and to visitors.

Planning is already underway for next Pingelly Astrofest in 2023.

 

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