A crowd of more than 500 astronomy enthusiasts gathered at the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre on Saturday 20 March for the 2021 Pingelly Astrofest.
The University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture and the Shire of Pingelly collaborated to deliver the free, family-friendly astronomy festival.
Proudly supported by Lotterywest, 2021 Pingelly Astrofest attracted a constellation of stargazers both new and experienced – including locals and groups visiting from neighbouring towns and Perth. This was the first year the event has been held at the Centre, after it was held at UWA Farm Ridgefield in 2016 and 2018.
Although Pingelly Astrofest quickly outgrew its original location, UWA Farm Ridgefield was still front-and-centre with a popular information stall and craft workshop led by one half of the farm management team Cathy McKenna.
“It was great to share information about the farm with curious visitors and also see lots of our neighbouring farmers and have a chat,” Mrs McKenna said.
The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) set up their state-of-the-art telescopes on the oval and generously shared their passion for space with the community throughout the night.
Despite some clouds forming earlier in the evening, ICRAR-UWA Cosmos Consultant Greg Rowbotham said there were many wondrous sights of our night sky seen through the telescopes.
The UWA Institute of Agriculture Director Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique, who joined the Shire of Pingelly and Nyoongar elder Gary Bennell during the opening speeches and Welcome to Country, said the event was an outstanding achievement.
“Pingelly Astrofest is a true credit to excellent collaboration and hard work from the Shire, the Institute and ICRAR,” Professor Siddique said.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to enthuse youngsters about the role of science and technology.”
In addition to Scitech science workshops and presentations, the popular UWA School of Agriculture and Environment stall entertained kids with viewing soil biota under the microscope and exploring where plants grow and why soil pH and salinity matters.
Professor Marco Fiorentini from UWA’s School of Earth Sciences delighted visitors with the UWA Clarke Earth Science Museum collection including some of the oldest materials in the universe.
Shire of Pingelly President William Mulroney acknowledged that 2021 Pingelly Astrofest was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Shire’s collaboration and partnership with UWA.
“The connection with astronomy and science industry experts, as well as passionate residents and community groups leveraged an amazing opportunity to stage a unique visitor experience that showcases our community’s natural assets,” Mr Mulroney said.
2021 Pingelly Astrofest was also an occasion for local people and businesses to run market stalls and the Pingelly Primary School P&C, Pingelly Tourism Group, Pingelly Arts and Craft Group, Pingelly Craft Centre, and the PRACC Board to fundraise.