Thursday, October 27, 2016


It’s a while between blogs, scanning through the Twitter feed this morning and an interesting outcome is the quantity of articles on astro-tourism.  Whilst those in the light pollution game would be more than familiar with the concept of asto-tourism it doesn’t really appear much on the sales brouchres around Australia.  In fact cannot recall one iconic form of astronomy and tourism from any advertising campaign. 

I think the concept of Astro-tourism is so new there's no accepted way of spelling it, although what astro-tourism actually is needs to be spelled out.  Over the last few days I've had a bit of a flood of astro-tourism tweets into the @SOLIS_Syd Twitter account and so I've been inspired to write a blog post - even though there's several conferences I need to write-up here.

I recently, within the last year have been contacted twice by gradute students conducting research on asto-tourism, these have generally been students in buisness or economics.  I think they both struggled to get some taction in getting their survey forms completed and getting a relevant ’n’ value for a significant result.  I know that organised astro-tourism does occur in central Australia, centred on the resorts of Alice Springs, Alice Springs though is easily described as remote from most of the population of Australia.  What is happening in the rest of Australia  and where is astro-tourism headed around the world?  Is astro-tourism a real business?

Australia is one of the most urbanised, if not the most urbanised country in the world, over 70% of the population live in the major capital cities of the nation’s states, major urban conglomerations.  The dark sky map of Australia from the recent Second World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness shows Australia as being dark. 

Australia - World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness
I no longer live in Sydney, I’m over 400 kms from Sydney in a regional centre of 25,000 people yet the readings from my Unihedron SQM are on average just one 1 SQM level darker, on the other hand I can easily see magnitude 4.5 and maybe deeper on some nights, yet in Sydney I’d be lucky to get magnitude 4.0, generally somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0, and in my new location,  a binocular field,  10x80 Fujinon’s, the area of Scorpius is crammed with stars.   From the centre of Sydney, the location of Sydney Observatory and yet 100 metres from the Sydney Harbour Bridge it is possible to make out the 4 stars of Crux (‘Southern Cross’).  The future of astro-tourism in Australia must be seen as positive (no puns here) and yet there’s little to be seen, the future is too dark or dim ( I couldn’t resist).

What is happening overseas?

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held in the Jasper National Park in Canada.  This national park was declared by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a ‘Dark Sky Preserve’ and this month held for the third time a ‘Dark Sky Festival’, check out the Twitter feed on #JasperDSF, it was 10 days of astronomy under a dark sky.  With a diverse range of activities and some unique sponsors.  Such a high level of interest in science and astronomy and with high profile sponsors it looks like science can do well in Canada, check the website on Jasper Dark Sky

The most likely known Dark Sky Activist organisation would be the International Dark Sky Association (IDA)  a recent interview with their outreach officer by a travel organisation  Confetti Travel Cafe can be found here.

The IDA after being formed in 1988 has fought many lighting battles and established a process for certifying dark sky locations.  These days it has become a popular process in the United States and similar systems exist in Europe, locally a dark sky park has been established surrounding the Australian Astronomical Observatories (AAO) at Siding Spring (Coonabarabran) in the Warrumbungles National Park, and the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve was established at Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand a few years ago.  The popularity in the United States has led to Utah making applications for 14 State Parks, where two parks have already been established.

Ngari night sky
Also to be included in the list of organisations concerned about the loss of the night sky is an organistaion in China called ‘MountainStar’.  A location in the autonomous region of Tibet called Ngari prefecture has been nominated as the location of the first Dark Sky Reserve in China.  The description by Tibet Travel is : "With an altitude of 4,200m, Ngari Dark Sky Park is now located, 25 km to the South of Shiquanhe town of Ngari.  It is the first dark sky park its kind in Asia, featuring sky observation, photography and study.  It is a paradise for star gazers. "

Sunday, June 5, 2016

So ..., long time between posts.  I've been attending seminars and conferences and finishing off my Masters in Architectural Science (Illumination Design).  The latest conference was Media Architecture Biennale 2016.  This will turn into a long blog post so the start is here:

Media Architecture Biennale 2016

So for the last four days I’ve been attending the Media Architecture Biennale 2016.  It’s been a self-indulgent immersion in the ideas around Smart Cities / Media Architecture / Lighting.  An assembelage of signiifcant players and personalities in these fields spoke on their topics over those four days.  In multiple streams it makes a difficult choice so I unfortunately missed a few items around the concept of Media Architecture.

The Media Architecture Biennale was held in Sydney 1st to 4th June 2016, looking for a Twitter hash tag use #mab2016.  This is the fourth conference of this type, the previous being held in London(2007), Denmark (2102, 2014), the next in 2018 to be held in Beijing.  a theme of ‘Digital Placemaking’ was chosen for this conference.

The program comprised of the SPARC Design exhibition, a day of workshops across urban environments and digital engagement through media architecture to smart cities and urban spaces, the city as a platform and the utilisation of data and creating public spaces at night.  It’s important to remember that the urban place/space exists in a diurnal world.

On the first day the workshops I attended was on “Smart Cities and Urban Innovation”, introduced by Scott Hawken and Hoon Han of University of New South Wales.  The speakers:

Greg Stone - Head of Digital Services - Australasia, ARUP.

Greg Stone - Head of Digital Services - Australasia, ARUP
Here Greg spoke on drivers of change these being: political, social, economic, technological and environmental.  He emphasised that the sontext of the system is mobile that artificial intelligence needs to be the intent of the system and the implementation needs to be over the internet protocol.  In the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning it is simple to conceptualise a scene  where the  daily aspects of a persons life would be centred around functions such as:  finding nourishment, arriving at the workplace, getting around, access to localities  being welcomed, access to business services  managing identity, unique and personalised retail.  Greg said a fundamental nature of a city is change and with that is  a changing technology landscape, have a look at his slide describing the changing technology landscape.  The clincher though is cost, how will it be funded and what the yield will be.  The take away was the intent and role of the street in the city and how open data will combine with ubiquitous sensors. 
Jeremy Gill - SCG Economics and Planning

Jeremy Gill - SCG Economics and Planning.  

The second speaker Jeremy Gill of SCG Economics  and Planning described the city as its people and that to define a city you need to start with data, he described data as a lens through which a city can be viewed.  That data is to be used to define the future of the city.

Friday, March 4, 2016

CIE 2016 - Day 1

The first day of #CIE2016 is over, I’m not sure they realise they need a hashtag, and it was packed full of exciting detail.  It was fantastic to hear a talk from a local indigenous man, he described the plight of Australian aboriginals and how this local land was once a burial ground.  I wish he had spoken of how the light form Melbourne is ruining the night sky and the elaborate stories that the Australian aboriginies used to transfer knowledge through the ages of 50,000 years of occupation of this continent.  I’ll be missing the next meeting of Sydney City Skywatchers on next Monday night 7th March where Duane Haramacher, formerly of Macquarie University Sydney but now of Monash University Melbourne will be talking in indigenous astronomy. 

The Keynote Presenation by Bruce Ramus was impressive as he always is, Bruce’s resume including working on spectacular rock music shows of likes of U2 gave wonderful experience with large video screens.  The latest achievements of Ramus Entertaiment includes building size presenations such as the full facade display of Commonwealth Bank at Darling Harbour Sydney, and an impressive full building size barometer for 800 Collins Street Melbourne and an impressive building in Perth.  It can be difficult aligning these efforts with the objectie of acheiving dark skies, and as Bruce’s talk emphasised that city planners are moving to 24 hour cities, smart cities and public spaces where information is delivered through interactive lighitng displays.  Soon 70% of the population of world will be living in city - will they ever see a starry night sky?

The #CIE2016 runs in three strands and it’s impossible to see and hear everything, my choice was for the technical nature of ‘Advanced Radiometry and Photometry’ and I dragged Dr Nick Lomb (formerly of Sydney Observatory) and now with IDA Victoria, along to this session.  Of the four speakers two where concerned with measuring and estimating the the uncertainities in measuring colour, my discrete mathematics was taken for a test run as they spoke on Monte Carlo simulations from their collected databases, so I’m glad I took those gradute statistics classes in 2015.  The other talks were on actually measuring colour and the laser calibrated trap detector is evidence that lasers are making their way into lighting. 

I might need to leave day 1 report here for the moment because it's the begining of day 2 and I need to get the conference, so I'll update with a few images later.  Looks like excellent weather in Melbourne, first time ever I've been here and it's not raining.

And a fitting way to end the first day was with an SQM reading from Fiztroy Gardens, 18.36 from the centre of Melbourne, unfortunately I needed an astro finder on the iPhone to locate Crux, only three stars barely visible, delta Crucis was definitely not visible - but it was clear night.  I made my first Melbourne entry for Globe At Night