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Monday, April 30, 2018

Outback stargazing in South Australia


A family-owned eco-tourism business plans to bring visitors deep into the desert of South Australia to experience the night sky in all its glory.



Opal prospector Conan Fahey has turned to crowdfunding to raise money to design and build an astronomy observatory, education centre and viewing platform in the South Australian mining outpost of Andamooka.

Located 600km by road north of Adelaide, the tiny Outback town of Andamooka is best known for it opals, but now Fahey and his family want to show off the sparkling night sky to visitors.

Fahey has begun a GoFundMe campaign to raise AUD$68,000 to build a star deck and an education centre to help kickstart an eco-tourism industry in the isolated community of 600 people.

“We want to attract more tourists and work with our community to build an amazing tourist attraction with heaps of educational and employment opportunities for our locals,” Fahey said.



The goal is to build a centre where children can discover science through the night skies as well as develop and partner with the Aboriginal bushfood and cottage art industries.

“The Andamooka Observatory will provide tools and infrastructure for Aboriginal rangers and tour guides and host a local group of astroholics who love to promote the night skies of the South Australian Outback,” Fahey said.

Andamooka was first settled in 1933 when opals where discovered in the area. In the years since the settlement, which is located at the end of the last bit of paved road in the far north of South Australia, has attracted a mix of prospectors and adventurous tourists from around the world. The town, which resembles a Mad Max set, once boasted a population of 2000 people, but less than 600 now call it home.



South Australia is renowned for its pristine environment and there is a growing appreciation for its dark skies that make it a perfect place to observe the Milky Way.

Further south, environmentalists and astronomers are working up a case to have a vast tract of land just 120km from the South Australian capital Adelaide declared a Dark Sky Reserve.

If successful, the 2000sq km River Murray Dark Sky Reserve, which has a dark sky reading of 21.9 (22 is total darkness), would become just the second officially sanctioned International Dark Sky Place in Australia and the fifth in the Southern Hemisphere.

In Andamooka, Fahey and his family have hosted telescope nights on the hill beside their property to observe astronomical events.

“One of our ‘moonie’ nights included the use of the town’s portable screen (pictured above). We were able to hook it up to a telescope and show the super blue moon on the big screen,” Fahey said.

Fahey said they were also selling used books at their property to help raise the necessary funds.
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