The Story of Light – Celebrating Australia’s largest optical telescope

WHEN: Sunday, 3rd June 2018, 2:00 - 3:30 pm

WHERE: Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, NSW 2007


  • Prof. Fred Watson (Australian Astronomical Observatory): The story of the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT).
  • Dr. Sarah Martell (UNSW): Exploring the stars with the AAT.
  • Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University): Connecting the Galaxy to the Universe with the AAT.
  • A/Prof. Chris Lidman (Australian National University): Distant galaxies and cosmology with the AAT.

HOST: Kirsten Banks (UNSW / Sydney Observatory)

TICKETS: $15.00, Concession: $8.00, Child (16 years and under): FREE. Tickets can be bought in the Event Webpage of the PowerHouse Museum.

The Emu over the AAT. Credit: Ángel López-Sánchez

Following the success of our sold-out Event “The Story of Light – The Astronomer’s Perspective” for ViVID Sydney Ideas 2015, and “The Story of Light – Deciphering the data encoded on the cosmic light” (see photos and the video of this event), and “The Story of Light – Surveying the Cosmos” for ViVID Sydney Ideas 2017,the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) continues its collaboration with ViVID Sydney 2018 organizing “The Story of Light – Celebrating Australia's largest optical telescope”.

How do astronomers explore the Universe?

Almost everything we know about the Universe has been obtained analyzing the light of the Cosmos collected with telescopes. With its 3.9m mirror, the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), located at Siding Spring Observatory (Coonabarabran, NSW) is the largest optical telescope in Australia. Its excellent optics, exceptional mechanical stability and precision computer-control make it one of the finest telescopes in the world.

The AAT was commissioned in 1974, and for years it was the largest optical telescope of the Southern Hemisphere, but it still is a leading edge astronomical facility thanks to the technology development conducted at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO).

The AAT has significantly improved our understanding of the Universe. It provided, for the very first time, amazing color images of galaxies, nebulae and stars clusters. It was key in the observation of the spectacular explosion of the Supernova 1987A, the brightest supernova since the invention of the telescope four centuries earlier. The AAT has detected tens of exoplanets and discovered streams of stars in our Galaxy that are the remnants of dwarf galaxies that have been absorbed by our own. The AAT has also unraveled the details of the large-scale structure of the Universe, confirmed the existence of both dark matter and dark energy in the Cosmos, and study the evolution of the galaxies during the last 10 billion years.

This event will bring together five professional astrophysicists to celebrate Australia’s largest optical telescope. It aims to provide an overview of the main science achievements obtained analyzing the light collected with the Anglo-Australian Telescope and the exciting science and technology projects currently on-going in this cutting edge research facility. Hear about how the AAT is digging the stars in the Milky Way to understand how it was formed. Move from planets imagined by science fiction to real exoplanets as described by science discoveries, many obtained at the AAT. Be amazed about the AAT’s amazing optical fibre optics and engineering technology that allows to “dissect” galaxies to understand how stars and galaxies form and evolve. Listen to the experts that contributed to discover the existence of the mysterious dark energy in the Cosmos and how the AAT seeks for the optical detection of gravitational waves.

The panel will happily answer any questions about the Universe, so bring yours along.

Prof Fred Watson
Prof. Fred Watson is an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory. His main scientific interest is in the use of novel technology to gather information on very large numbers of stars and galaxies. Until 2009, Fred was based at the AAO's telescopes, where he was Astronomer in Charge. He is now the Head of Lighting and Environment, working closely with state and local government and the Coonabarabran community to preserve the dark skies of the observatory. Fred is well-known for his astronomy slots on ABC radio, and his books. In 2003, Fred received the David Allen Prize for communicating astronomy to the public, and in 2006 was the winner of the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. You can find him on Twitter as @StargazerFred.
 Dr. Angel Lopez-Sanchez Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astronomer and science communicator at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Macquarie University. He studies how the gas is converted into stars in nearby galaxies and how this affects galaxy evolution. He also provides support for visiting astronomers to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW). Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science writings and organizes stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.
 Dr Sarah Martell Dr. Sarah Martell is a senior lecturer at UNSW. Her main research focus is on "Galactic archaeology" - unwinding the present-day orbits and chemical compositions of stars in the Milky Way to study the processes at work early in Galactic history. She is one of two Project Scientists for the GALAH (Galactic Archaeology with HERMES) survey, which began collecting data at the Anglo-Australian Telescope in late 2013. She is member of the Steering Committee of Astronomical Society of Australia chapter for Early-Career Researchers. Her Twitter feed is @_sarahmartell_.
A/Prof Chris Lidman A/Prof. Chris Lidman completed his PhD at the Australian National University in 1994, he currently is the Director of Siding Spring Observatory. He was a member of one of the teams that shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics for discovering the accelerating expansion of the Universe. Prof  Lidman also shared the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize for this research. He is now leading the successful OzDES program at the Anglo-Australian Telescope, which is measuring the redshifts for very faint galaxies in which the Dark Energy Survey is finding distant supernovae.
 Kirsten Banks Kirsten Banks is a proud Wiradjuri woman with an intense passion for Astronomy and Science Communication. Ever since a young girl, she’s had her eyes locked to the sky and she first formed her love for astrophysics in high school. Now a fourth year Physics student at the UNSW, Kirsten jumps at any and every opportunity to get involved with Science Communication. She’s appeared on many radio shows such as ABC Mornings with Wendy Harmer, and the Night Shift with Luke Bona on Triple M, as well as joining the television realm on NITV’s the Point, even a Japanese Documentary about Indigenous Astronomy! You can find her on Twitter as @astrokirsten.

More information in the Vivid Sydney 2018 website of  “The Story of Light – Celebrating Australia's largest optical telescope”.

Tickets can be bought in the Event Webpage of the PowerHouse Museum.

Complete video and photos of "The Story of Light 2016: Deciphering the data encoded on the cosmic light".