Tamworth today joins the likes of Coonabarabran, Bathurst, Dubbo, Mudgee and Parkes as one of New South Wales’ astro-tourism capitals with construction officially completed on the Tamworth Regional Astronomy and Science Centre, just in time for Space Week in Tamworth.
The centre is the newest addition to the NSW Inland Astronomy Trail, and is expected to generate approximately $422,000 in tourism for the Tamworth region annually.
Tamworth’s star gazing enthusiasts now have access to an astronomical education centre to rival any in the state, complete with:
- a large observatory with a roll-off roof to house multiple medium to large telescopes
- planetarium for presentations/lectures
- multi-functional space for the display of instruments and educational instruction
- a small observatory with a roll-off roof to house the rare historic Hewitt Camera telescope
The Hewitt Camera, one of only two telescopes of its type in the world, provides Tamworth’s new centre with a unique point of difference, capable of finding the exact location of satellites orbiting Earth.
Tamworth Region Mayor Col Murray said “This fantastic new centre will not only provide a hands-on learning centre for our local students, but it will also attract visitors to our region as part of the NSW astro-tourism network.”
The Tamworth Regional Astronomy and Science Centre is now open on Thursday evenings from 5pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Opening hours will increase over the next few months as the final installations at the centre are completed. The centre will be operated by the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club, made up of 85 members. The club is an accredited Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics provider, and has been hosting school groups for the past three years.
Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club President Garry Copper said “We are thrilled that our members will be able to share their expert knowledge with the public in such an amazing educational facility moving forward.”
Member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson said “The big open New England skies make Tamworth a prime location for an astronomy centre. I’m so pleased that the NSW Government were able to contribute $1.8 million towards making this project a reality. The new centre will bring a new tourism market to our city which ultimately means more jobs and more dollars into our local economy.”
Federal Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, who chairs the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources inquiry into Developing Australia’s Space Industry, said the Australian Government was proud to support amateur astronomers in Tamworth.
“Our Government is pursuing not only big picture projects in our emerging space industry but also local projects like this astronomy centre which serves as a mechanism to contemplate the magnificence that rolled out before us on a dark, starry night and hopefully inspiring budding astronomers young and old in our community,” Mr Joyce said.
The Tamworth Regional Astronomy and Science Centre has received a total $2.7 million in funding, contributed by:
- $1,800,000: NSW Government’s Restart NSW Fund – Main Centre. This project is part of the Department of Regional NSW, funded by the Regional Growth: Environment and Tourism Fund (RGETF).
- $460,000: Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program – Hewitt Observatory and Planetarium
- $405,000 Tamworth Regional Council – carpark upgrade, water and sewer infrastructure
- $78,000: Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club ($38,000 in specialist equipment)