Who We Are and Where We Came From
The Townsville Astronomy Group was established c1990 with Richard Free as the founding member along with an enthusiastic core group of about 6. Richard was a physics teacher, and his talks, which were held at the local high school, were very informative and interesting and always attracted a good turnout. Scopes were set up at the school, so a bit of light affected our viewing from the city, and occasionally, the school sprinklers gave us a scare, and had us running for cover.
We wanted an informal group, without committees and membership fees, we just wanted to chat and set up our scopes, observe and have fun. Our numbers have remained stable, with the usual changes in faces over time. Over the last few years a website has been established taking the group to another level in establishing a base to promote the group, and astronomical events. The site has had a recent upgrade by Ed, and continues to improve with plans for a focus on education in 2013.
Viewing at our latitude of -19 dg is an interesting task. There is humidity all year round, and even in the ‘drier’ months, we suffer from the humidity with water dripping off our scopes, fogged up finder scopes, and very damp star atlases etc. In our ‘wet’ season from Nov – March, we have to abandon our viewing nights as the atmosphere is virtually laden with moisture. Our viewing astronomical year typically runs from March to November, but we are know to have impromptu sessions if the weather allows.
There are also some bonuses with observing at our latitude in that we have many clear nights during winter. Another bonus is that we are able to observe more of the Northern constellations, than our Southern friends. Richard Free was constantly amazed that he was able to see some of his beloved Northern constellations. We have good views of Andromeda, Perseus, Lacerta, Auriga, and can see Ursa Major on the horizon, though unable to see the Great Bear’s famous galaxies. Also, the ecliptic runs virtually right above us, making for some wonderful planetary observing. Unfortunately, the Southern Cross is unseen during our summer months, unless we are up in the wee hours of the morning. The aim of the group, apart from the usual obsessions with the DSO’s, planets, comets, telescopes etc, is to encourage more people to enjoy astronomy. To this end, we hold monthly public viewing sessions down on The Strand, which are well attended by both the group’s members and the general public. Last year we started these sessions late afternoon, thus allowing the public to view the Sun through our solar filters. If there is a specific astronomical event occurring, we let the public know via the radio, Facebook and the website. In 2012 we had our scopes set up at the Museum for the Transit of Venus and had a wonderful turnout from an appreciative public.
We presently hold our viewing nights at Donnington Airpark at Woodstock, which is about 35 minutes from Townsville, where the skies are reasonably dark, with just a glow from Townsville lights on the horizon. These are held once a month around the time of New Moon. We often have a second viewing night at Rangewood with an astrophotography focus, which has become quite popular. Several members of the group have the GStar cameras, or webcams, while others attach their DSLR to their scopes. 2013 will have a change in focus for TAG, with Charles hoping to involve the local schools and teachers to participate actively in the promotion of Astronomy for students. We have set up scopes at a variety of schools over the years, with enthusiastic responses.
Ours is a very informal group coming together to share a common passion with each other and as many others as we can however with the passing of the law requiring tighter controls on the use of lasers we have decided to formalise our structure in order to give members legal protection. This incorporation has been undertaken on the understanding that we maintain our informality but comply with the new regulations. Our emphasis remains on fellowship within the group and outreach to the local area so please look around the site and enjoy it. Feel free to contact us for any information on events or viewings or even some help with that telescope you haven’t used in ages. We will be most pleased to welcome you to our group