TAMWORTH’S on track to become a mecca for amateur astronomers, with the city’s first astronomy club up and running and planning underway for a star gazing centre in Victoria Park.
The Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club may still be in its infancy, but it’s already been gifted the largest privately-owned portable telescope in Australia and is now keen for somewhere to house it.
The idea of a club emerged earlier this year out of a shared interest in the Lowe Observatory on the Moonbi range, built and operated by amateur astronomer and photographer, and former Tamworth businessman, Lindsay Lowe.
Mr Lowe has some health issues and a number of people stepped forward to offer some assistance in relation to the running of the observatory, which is home to a 32-inch telescope, and is considered one of the largest privately-owned facilities nationally.
Garry Copper has just been appointed the club’s vice-president and said the idea of a proper astronomy club grew from there.
At the December15 meeting of Tamworth Regional Council, councillors agreed to the group’s request for the lease of some land in Victoria Park to accommodate a clubhouse and buildings for the 36-inch telescope donated by Warwick and Margaret Schofield, along with a 16-inch telescope belonging to Mr Lowe.
Cr Phil Betts said the addition of an astronomy club to the Victoria Park precinct, which includes the botanic gardens and miniature
railway, would “add to its substance” and there was already interest from local schools in opportunities the club and its facilities could offer students.
Mr Copper said the Lowe Observatory would remain a priority for club members, but its isolated location meant it was important to create a base in Tamworth to increase the club’s accessibility to the public.
Mr Copper said this week’s decision by council was a big step in the club’s advancement, and they would now start finalising plans for the Tamworth facilities before seeking local donations and government funding towards their construction.
He said thanks to a number of high-profile international space missions in recent years, public interest in astronomy had grown, and, if all the club’s plans for the future came together, he could see big potential for tourists.
“From what I’ve seen ... this could be one of the best equipped astronomy clubs in Australia,” Mr Copper said.