Ex-Tamworth man and NASA astrophysicist, Professor Stephen Kane, gets behind Victoria Park observatory

TAMWORTH school students could help NASA scientists unlock the mysteries of the universe once the council’s observatory is up and running. 

Former Tamworth High School student and NASA astrophysicist, Professor Stephen Kane, said the Victoria Park facility would “be of great use to NASA’s ongoing science” – such as looking for habitable planets revolving around other stars.

“There’s a lot of projects coming up that use facilities all around the world – where it’s daytime somewhere, we need it to be nighttime somewhere else, so we can keep doing our work,” Dr Kane said.

“These projects are the kind students can be involved in, working on them alongside their teachers and side by side with scientist who are helping them along.”

Dr Kane is an honorary member of the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club and will guide the club with his expertise.

Club member, councillor Phil Betts, said Dr Kane would give the club and local students projects to do, based on his links with San Francisco State University and NASA.

“Australia is in the southern hemisphere and there are a very limited number of telescopes looking at the southern night sky,” Cr Betts said.

“The idea is to get as much data from the southern hemisphere as we can.

“The club has access to some amazing technology, including a 36-inch Dobsonian telescope, which is the largest privately owned telescope in Australia.”

The development application for the facility will be submitted “in the very near future”.

While Dr Kane is in his hometown, he’ll deliver a special presentation about his work discovering planets in other solar systems.

“Not only can we talk about those planets in real terms, but we can talk about the age-old question: is there life elsewhere in the universe?” he said.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘This talk is probably going to be over my head’ – if it’s over your head I’ve failed, because this is a talk designed for the public.”

The free public presentation is on Wednesday, July 27, at Tamworth High School at 7pm. 

The evening will also act as a fundraiser for the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club, with the money raised going towards the Victoria Park observatory.

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