This week, together with Rob Hollow and Mary Mulcahy from the ATNF, and Steven Tingay from Curtin, I went up to visit a remote school in an aboriginal community at Pia Wadjarri to do some outreach. We met up in Geraldton on Monday and headed out to Boolardy station on Tuesday morning, a drive of several hours in a 4x4 along mainly dirt roads through low scrub. The area is incredible, so different to what I'm used to back in the UK. It is pretty remote, and we were very glad of the satellite phone when the 4x4 broke down 130km north of the nearest bit of tarmac and 70km short of the nearest settlement of any size! We spent four hours trying to escape the afternoon Sun by hiding under a small tree.
MWA tile with the breakaway in the background
The rest of the trip went really well. We went to visit the site of the Murchison Wide-field Array (MWA) and the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) early on Wednesday morning, and it's fantastic. Between the MWA tiles and the ASKAP cabin, there's a breakaway which is the only height for miles in any direction. We climbed up and had a look out over the area, a huge expanse of land with hardly a person anywhere. It's very remote, and so quiet. I love it.
The ASKAP cabin from the breakaway CREDIT: Megan
Then we went to the school at Pia to do a day of astronomy activities with kids from the reserve and a group who had come up from Yalgoo to join us for the day. We had planned to get out telescopes in the evening after sunset and do some practical astronomy, but it was too cloudy in the end. We did plenty of other stuff though: solar system games, looked at the Sun, raced balloon rockets and launched water rockets. It was great!
Launching water rockets at Pia CREDIT: Megan
It was a fantastic week, despite the problems with the 4x4! I'm hoping to get a chance to go back there at some point though: I spent ages looking for some decent slide film for my old SLR especially for taking some astrophotos on this trip, but it was cloudy every night!