Thursday, March 16, 2017 — Canberra’s first astronomical teaching observatory for school students will be launched at 9am tomorrow at The Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Media are invited to attend the opening at the Mount Stromlo Visitor Centre from 9am.

The McNamara-Saunders Astronomical Teaching Telescope (MSATT) includes a high-end 30cm robotic telescope housed in a dome, plus a range of smaller telescopes. The facility is designed for student research projects in astronomy.

The project is the brainchild Melrose High School science teacher Geoff McNamara, who won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

The telescope was largely funded by private donors, Dr Denis and Vee Saunders, who donated $35,000.

MSATT has been designed for use by students from Year 9 to Year 12. No experience with astronomy or telescopes is necessary, and any student from the ACT region can apply to use MSATT for a project.

Possible projects include measuring the mass of Jupiter, or investigating properties of stars. Each project will be tailored to the needs and abilities of the student. In return, the student produces a referenced and refereed report on their findings.

MSATT is also available for one-off sessions, catering for small groups up to 10 people, special interest school science groups, families, or community groups wanting to learn more about astronomy.

MSATT is a cooperative project between donors, The Australian National University, and the ACT Education Directorate, and is located at Mount Stromlo Observatory.


WHAT: Opening of the McNamara-Saunders Astronomical Teaching Telescope

WHO: ANU Vice-Chancellor and astrophysicist Professor Brain Schmidt AC, Geoffrey McNamara, Melrose High School science teacher, Professor Ken Freeman, ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

WHERE: Visitors Centre, Mount Stromlo Observatory

WHEN: 9am, Friday 17 March 2017