An Australian Perspective
Astronomy has been part of Australian heritage since James Cook first sailed to Tahiti (and then to Australia) on a mission to watch a transit of Venus across the Sun. Knowledge of the stars and planets make up a large part of Aboriginal tribal beliefs and dreaming stories, including day-to-day knowledge used to follow the change of the seasons.
The establishment of state observatories in the major Australian cities reached a height in the late 1800s, typified by the construction of the Great Melbourne Telescope. Astronomers soon realised that light pollution from streetlights and other outdoor lighting was limiting observations in cities so remote mountain sites such as Siding Spring were developed during the 20th century. After World War II, facilities such as the radio observatory at Parkes enabled astronomers to look at the sky in a different way.
Amateurs astronomers, too, have established observatories in and around the major cities of Australia which have become a focal point for many local astronomy clubs and societies. Such associations often run public nights at their observatories or other local sites. Many observers also have a dome or shed with detachable roof in their backyard for private use.
Amateur astronomers interact with professional astronomers by discovering new objects such as comets, providing back up observations and alerting major observatories (including those operating orbiting observatories) of activity in variable stars, supernovae and similar phenomena.
Books and magazines about amateur astronomy are written and published in Australia, providing a relevant local perspective to the hobby.
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