Port Macquarie Astronomical Association want to expand their premises

New home: Port Macquarie Astronomical Association president David Edgerley with basic plans for the new science and astronomy centre on the current observatory site.
New home: Port Macquarie Astronomical Association president David Edgerley with basic plans for the new science and astronomy centre on the current observatory site.

The Port Macquarie Astronomical Association has plans to build a new centre on its current site in Rotary Park, Port Macquarie.

The association, which operates the Port Macquarie Observatory, says its expansion plans are aimed at appealing to a broader section of the community.

Association president David Edgerley says the group's science and astronomy centre has taken several steps forward.

"A key aspect of the new science and astronomy centre is to broaden our appeal," he said.

"We are currently sited on Crown Land in Port Macquarie and we believe we could do much more than just open a few nights a weekend talk about astronomy.

"Canberra's Questacon is an example of meeting the needs of the younger generation."

Mr Edgerley said Crown Lands and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council have been supportive of the group's plans.

A development application is currently being worked up for the replacement building.

He said it had taken the group a number of years to understand what kind of building it should construct.

Despite missing out on one grant application, Mr Edgerley said the group had pressed on with the first steps of a DA.

"We believe this is important in helping convince people who would be giving us a grant or a serious donation," he said.

"Having a DA is probably the most effective way forward.

We have been involved in discussions with council and their positive response has been wonderful.

David Edgerley

"We have been involved in discussions with council and their positive response has been wonderful.

"Crown Lands has also given us a green light to move in this direction."

The Association is responsible for the maintenance of the building, which is nearing 60 years of age.

Mr Edgerley says incorporating a science aspect into its overall goal will help broaden the association's appeal, particularly to a younger generation.

He said the group had recently hosted a sixth birthday party and a visit from a local child care centre.

Those visits triggered a conversation within the group about how it could engage with an younger audience.

"Children seem to be a lot more interested and excited about astronomy," he said.

"The ABC tried to set a record for the number of people stargazing at any one time and I think that event attracted some 200 people to our observatory.

"You also have the Hubble Space Telescope along with the recent flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft creating plenty of interest."

Mr Edgerley said New Horizons had taken 13 years to reach Pluto and was now exploring the Kuiper Belt.

He some theories suggest that after the big bang, space was super hot and full of gasses.

"Very slowly, in the early stages of the life of the universe, gravity started to happen. Suns began to form.

"These suns then started exerting gravity fields of their own.

"Our sun, for example, comprises helium and hydrogen. What we see is super-heated hydrogen turning into helium which is, essentially, the energy source of our sun."

The Port Macquarie Observatory will open its doors each Friday from 10.30am until noon during the school holidays. The visits are designed for children aged 5 to 10 years.

The first visit attracted about 20 people.

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