Space enthusiasts across Australia have been anticipating the announcement of Star Stuff III at Elements of Byron resort since organisers skipped the event in 2019. Major sponsor and telescope vendor Bintel shared the news and the incredible speaker list which caused a quick flurry of ticket sales from astronomy fans who have been waiting two years for the event to return to the popular beachside town.
Headlining the full day of space-focussed keynote presentations and the gala dinner is Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, a popular Australian author, TV personality and radio astronomer often seen on the ABC as well as her work as an ambassador for women in science, technology, engineering & maths (STEM). Dr Matt Agnew, as astrophysicist known mainly for his appearance on The Bachelor AU 2019 is also on the bill and looking forward to talking more about his research on exoplanets for a change.
Other speakers include Trevor Jones, a popular YouTuber from Canada who hosts the “Astrobackyard” channel, Astrophysicists Kirsten Banks & Karlie Alinta Noon, Marnie Ogg a former manager of the Sydney Observatory, Annie Handmer from the University of Sydney to discuss Australian space policy and diplomacy, and award winning astrophotographers Martin Pugh & Dylan O’Donnell.
Set at the suitably dark but luxurious Elements of Byron resort is a point of difference for this astronomy event, whose attendees are typically used to cold and often off-grid locations far away from city lights which can erase the view of the Milky Way. Previous speaker Fraser Cain had this to say about his appearance at the last Star Stuff event – “As a Canadian, I’ve never seen the southern skies with my own eyes before, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect venue to appreciate the wonders of the southern hemisphere.”
Another Star Stuff regular and TV personality Professor Alan Duffy agrees. “The beauty of the Byron Bay surroundings is matched only be the enthusiasm of the audience in exploring the boundaries of the Universe and as a previous presenter I loved to discuss science both on and off the stage. As an event StarStuff is out of this world,” he said. Aboriginal astrophysicist Kirsten Banks, who will be speaking at Star Stuff 2020, noted, “I can’t wait to be surrounded by people who are just as crazy about space as I am!”
Known for its counter culture vibe, Byron Bay is perhaps an unusual location for such a mainstream science event. The environmentally conscious townspeople and astronomers have a key agreement however and Byron mayor Simon Richardson helped pass a motion through council in late 2019 highlighting the need to reduce lighting in the region. “These lights are wasting energy and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and there’s also the impact on nocturnal wildlife like birds, frogs, insects and animals who move around in the dark. As a community we are very lucky in that we can look at the sky at night and see the stars and the Milky Way but this is not the case in many cities where, because of light pollution, the stars are invisible.”
Organiser Dylan O’Donnell has been instrumental in proving the case for space tourism in the area and advocates looking upwards for a bigger perspective. He says “I think everyone is starting to realise that reducing light, and energy usage is a win for everybody. It helps address climate change causes, saves an incredible amount of money and reconnecting us to the Milky Way is just a bonus for us backyard and professional astronomers.”
Star Stuff III will run on Saturday the 18th July and includes 9 keynote speakers, telescope vendors and giveaways, a 3 course degustation dinner and stargazing if the weather permits. The event is brought to Byron Bay by sponsors including Bintel, Celestron, Skywatcher, Meade, Space Australia, Sidereal Trading and the Southern Astronomical Society.
Tickets are on sale now at http://www.starstuff.com.au