Astronomy Tours/Presentations 2009 

U.S. rocket expert to visit Hastings schools this year

Schools in the Macleay and Hastings districts are in for a real treat soon when a visiting U.S. rocket expert, Tom Savage, pays them a visit to discuss his involvement in the US space program and what its like to launch real rockets from Cape Canaveral. The school visits have been arranged by our local space expert, astronomer Dave Reneke, as part of his 2009 school education program called ‘Astronomy Outreach’ which is now enjoying its sixth year travelling to schools throughout NSW. 

Dave stayed with Tom and his wife Trish last year on his last trip to the United States and arranged the visit while touring the US space complex. Tom Savage lives and works in Florida, not far from Kennedy Space Centre, and has many years experience in the space industry working from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Dave with US rocket expert Tom Savage He was the lead electrical engineer for Titan Launch Operations for many years and has personally pressed the launch button on some of the biggest rockets ever built there. In his present job capacity Tom regularly commutes across the United States to his office in California.

He’s looking at working on America’s return to the moon program called the ‘Constellation program’ with the ‘Orion’ capsule. This is the replacement for the ageing Space Shuttle fleet due for retirement in 2010. In the Macleay on, Dave and Tom will be visiting students from Smithtown public school, Gladstone public school, Kinchela Public school and Bellimboppini. They’ll then give a presentation to the students at Westport High school in Port Macquarie on Wednesday 25 March.

Tom is bringing with him specially prepared awards to be presented to each school containing parts of the STS-109 Space Shuttle Columbia taken off it before it crashed on re-entry in 2003 killing all 7 astronauts on board. These awards will have the names of each school on them. He’ll also be bringing real shuttle tiles the kids can examine that have actually flown in space on the Space Shuttle.

As well as this, Dave will be supplying each school with a science package of astronomy and space DVDs worth around $200 courtesy of his sponsors, Austar and Discovery Channel Science. All in all, a great experience and a unique opportunity for some of our kids to hear about space and space rockets from real experts.

Dave Reneke Lecture – Sydney Observatory – 30 May 2009

sydney-obs I’ve been invited to give a 40 minute slide lecture talk at Sydney Observatory at around 8pm on Saturday night, May 30. All invited to attend for a great night hearing about and viewing the night sky. I’ve titled my talk “Secrets of the Universe” – a quick journey across the Universe usung some of the best images available. It’s a night for the general public and no prior astro knowledge is required.

I’ll be talking about the bigger picture and presenting some pretty interesting facts – some not very well know at all! Hope to see you there. Ring me on 0400 63 63 63 for more info. or email at See below for more info:

Festival of the Stars at Sydney Observatory Enjoy a weekend of spectacular stargazing and astronomical fun at Sydney Observatory’s annual Festival of the Stars on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 May, 6.00pm – 10.00pm.

Sydney Observatory’s annual star party this year takes place on the first weekend of Smart Light Sydney, a celebration of innovation through light art, music and ideas events. Friends and families can enjoy a feast of astronomical activities and entertainment including talks, tours, stargazing, 3-D shows and much more.  Pic: Sydney Observatory

View Saturn through large telescopes in the domes and Observatory grounds, as well as the zodiac constellations of Leo and Virgo and the constellations that make up Argo Navis, the legendary ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts. Hear fascinating astronomy-related talks from a range of speakers both nights – relive the Apollo 11 Moon landing, engage with current controversy in the climate change debate, explore the deep mysteries of ancient astronomy and more (see talks program below).

Take a ‘ghostly’ torchlight tour of the historic Fort Philip Signal Station and learn about mysterious events from the Observatory’s past, enjoy adventures in space in the interactive 3-D theatre and see amazing large-scale projections of our solar system on the Observatory’s heritage facade.  On Saturday evening, Miss Tippytoes and her Saturn hoopla rings will keep the kids entertained! Meet astronomers from all over Sydney and discover the latest astronomy products at a special night fair. 

Plus go in the draw to win your very own telescope. Come up to Sydney Observatory via the Light Walk, a free self-guided walk from the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay through The Rocks and up to Observatory Hill and see over 20 beautiful and dynamic light sculptures. Don’t miss this great night out under the stars – avoid the queues and pre-purchase your Festival of the Stars tickets online at

Talks program – Saturday 30 May 2009 6.30pm Imagine!  A greener world through lights-peed broadband, Brendon Park, Alcatel-Lucent. 7.00pm Aboriginal Sky Lore, Duane Hamacher, amateur astronomer and PHD candidate, Macquarie University 7.30pm KEYNOTE Searching for extra solar planets, Dr Tim Bedding, School of Physics, Sydney University 8.00pm Secrets of the Universe, David Reneke, author and space enthusiast 9.15pm The amazing history of the our calendar, Geoff Wyatt, astronomy educator, Sydney Observatory Sydney Observatory, Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks Admission: $17 adults, $10 child/conc, $47 family (all-inclusive) Pre-bookings & Information: or (02) 9921 3485. Media enquiries: Hayley Gallant, Publicist, Sydney Observatory Tel: 02 9217 0157 / 0413 985 277 Email:

Austar for Schools and Discovery Science

100 people turned away from lecture

kia-poolman AUSTAR for schools and Discovery Science Channel  and respected astronomer David Reneke travelled to schools in regional New South Wales as part of the AUSTAR for schools Science Month last week  to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009. David  visited Port Macquarie on Tuesday 19th of May to host a unique astronomy workshop for lucky year five students at St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie NSW.

David gave students an insight into the evolution of the universe, stars, galaxies, black holes and the latest discoveries in astronomy from around the world. He also taught students how to use a telescope and what to look for in the night sky.

As a special bonus in Port Macquarie  David held a FREE astronomy night show for the Port Macquarie Community on Tuesday 19th  at Port Macquarie Panthers, Pier One function room.  The night was arranged by Austar for Schools and Discovery science. Everyone attending had the chance to win a brand new telescope and every family received an AUSTAR for schools pack including a glow in the dark hat.

The scope was won aby a very excited local young lady. David says that he is delighted to be involved in the AUSTAR for schools program and is looking forward to visiting schools in regional New South Wales as part of the AUSTAR for schools program again.

** We apologise for those who missed out. We had over 400 people attend in a room that only held 250. Some were squeezed in but club management stepped in and to abide by safety laws we had to turn about 100 people away. The program porganisers will try and hold another special night in the near future at a larger venue to compensate. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The AUSTAR for schools Science Month is supported by the Discovery Science Channel and is an extension of the existing curriculum based schools program including a subscription of 20 educational channels provided to schools in the AUSTAR service area free of charge.

The program also includes exciting extracurricular activities with AUSTAR personalities visiting schools across the country helping to inspire students and further bring education to life. One of the key objectives of the new AUSTAR for schools program is to understand and support the important issues and interests of the students, teachers, parents and wider community from a grassroots education perspective and address these with initiatives that are in line with the core values of the AUSTAR brand.

Upon completion of each school visit AUSTAR’s Kia Poolman presented a $2000 grant to the participating school, to be used by the school towards educational resources for their students. The participating schools also received a brand new telescope and a teacher’s resource pack containing 10 astronomy DVDs for use in further science education. To find out more about the AUSTAR for schools program and the other exciting interactive activities planned for 2009, visit the AUSTAR for schools website

Students reach for the stars

students-reach-for-the-stars The students of St Mary’s Primary School in Grafton were treated to a discovery of the stars last week. David Reneke, one of Australia’s best known and respected astronomers, visited the school to educate and entice students with his of knowledge and interesting facts. Kids got to hold a meteorite, look at stars, learn about black holes and lose themselves in outer space.

Pic: Astronomer David Reneke watches as Natasha Bala, right, looks at a piece of a meteorite as students, back from left, Rhys Commerford, Callum Scott-Smith and Hunter Stojkowski look on.

David was brought to Grafton as a part of AUSTAR’s active learning program, which brings interesting and fun educational programs to inspire students across the country. The program is supported by Discovery Science. Kia Poolman from AUSTAR presented a $2000 cheque to St Mary’s and a brand new telescope to create an active and interactive learning environment for their students. Extracted from:  Daily Examiner.   






Bringing space down to earth in Parkes   11 June 2009

Nationally acclaimed astronomy lecturer David Reneke visited Parkes with mixed success last week.Mr Reneke visited Parkes to present two functions – one to the students of Middleton Public School and one as part of a community viewing last Wednesday evening.While the Middleton students found Mr Reneke’s lecture very entertaining and educational, unfortunately, storms and cloudy skies prevented any viewing at the evening session.
Mr Reneke is the news editor of Sky and Space Magazine, an astronomy teacher, a sought-after speaker, and a radio presenter. He is well-known for his enthusiastic and colourful presentations, and last Wednesday’s show at Middleton was no exception. Mr Reneke’s lecture is a relaxed and fun look at the universe for people of all ages.
It features a slide show of over 100 of the best astronomical photos in the world. Middleton Public School principal, Mrs Sherree Rosser, said that the presentation was very valuable to the school students. ‘All the children in the school attended, to give them a taste of astronomy,’ Mrs Rosser said. ‘We generally don’t do anything like this at primary level. ‘Hopefully, the presentation might spark an interest in some of the children, who may want to follow up in their schooling, or they might take an interest in activities with the local astronomical society,’ she said.
Members of the Central West Astronomical Society were invited to come along to the community session later in the evening to provide telescopes and assist people with viewing of the night sky. However, bad weather meant that viewing was impossible. People were still able to hear David’s lecture and view his incredible slide show.

Extracted: Parkes Champion Post

Shopping Centre Astronomy Promotion a Big Hit!

winning-display3In recognition of The International Year of Astronomy 2009, local schools were invited to submit a project on Astronomy to be displayed throughout Port Central shopping centre, Port Macquarie. Prizes were awarded for the most voted for ‘Reach for the Stars’ project representing Primary and High School, with each winning school awarded $2,500.  The two category winners were decided by the number of votes each project received.

Local astronomer Dave Reneke judged the most outstanding project overall, which also was awarded $2,500.  Each winning project participant group was awarded a $500 shopping docket refund from Port Central. Winners were announced at Centre Court on Thursday, April 30 at 6.00 pm. Each project had to be suspended from the Centre’s ceiling rods. Dave’s suggested project subjects are listed below:

  • Why space exploration is important to mankind
  • Big Bang to Big Crunch – a 21st century view
  • The life-cycle of stars
  • E.T. – what would it really look like?
  • The S.E.T.I program
  • 10 essential things to take to another planet
  • Journey through a Black Hole
  • Create a space travel diorama
  • Planets around other stars – what would they look like?
  • Design and Astronomy poster
  • Make a poster advertising a trip to Mars
  • Putting Pluto back into the solar system

Vickii Byram. – Marketing Manager – Port Central

Local Students Win Space Contest

 Copy of Dave and contest winnersRecently, during Science Week (August) your editor and publicist for Australasian Science Magazine, Dave Reneke, ran a contest in his area newspapers asking local school kids the question, “What’s Cool About Space?”  The idea was to offer a prize during Science Week for the best or most creative answer received in 50 words or less.

“The number of entries I received was remarkable,” Dave said. “The level of thought and effort that went into each entry just goes to show kids these-days are really space savvy. We found our winners but it wasn’t easy.” Dave runs a state-wide schools program called Astronomy Outreach sponsored by Austar for Schools, the Discovery Channel Science Channel and Kookaburra Educational. Now in its sixth year it takes the Observatory into the classroom by teaching kids about astronomy and giving teachers the skills to carry it on.

A science package of books, DVDs and lesson prep material worth over $300 is donated to each school Dave visits. He is currently booked out 12 months in advance. The entries all came from Port Macquarie. “Three stood out above the rest, and received their prizes last Sunday” Dave said. “As it turned out, two of the winners came from the same family.” Through contacts at the overseas International Astronomical Union and in recognition of the International Year of Astronomy Dave presented Port Macquarie New South Wales school students Mitchell Treeves and his brother Christopher with a prize package containing DVDs, astronomy books, space stickers, bookmarks, astronaut pictures and more.

Chris wrote, “Space is cool because there is no oxygen and there is this big vacuum where there is no gravity. It’s cool when astronauts appear to float easily in their space capsule. Meteorites and comets are unreal because they move so fast and quickly and then the Ozone layer melts them before they can hit earth. Stars are interesting to our solar system and it’s great when the moon is out because they glitter in the night sky.” His brother Mitchell said, “Space is so cool because there is so much mystery about space.  Even though we study space through telescopes and send rockets into space and have space stations there is still so much we don’t know.  Is there really life in outer space? Who knows?  How cool!!!”

He also added a well presented PowerPoint show as well. A nice touch! The other winner, Port Macquarie student Jordan Clark age 10 also received a similar prize pack with his entry, “Space to me is absolutely fascinating because it never ever ends, and is still growing. There is so much information we still have not discovered. It amazes me how big the earth looks to me but compared to rest of the universe, it’s only a little speck.”  

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