Our star citizen
Wednesday, 27th January, 2021
By Emily Ferguson
Broken Hill’s most successful amateur astronomer, Trevor Barry has been awarded the 2021 Citizen of the Year Award.
Barry said he was blown away when he got the letter from the Council about his nomination for this award.
“I had to read it several times before the penny dropped that I had been nominated for this, it’s overwhelming really,” he said. “I’m very grateful to whoever organised this at the Council for considering someone like me for such an award.
“When I got that letter I thought people know I’m into astronomy roughly and the exposure that I got on 60 Minutes so they know about that and the connection with NASA, but they have no idea the extent internationally of the reach of my work.
“I’m still coming to terms with it, I’m very passionate about Broken Hill like all the Peer Reviewed Journals that I get published in always my affiliation is Broken Hill Observatory.
“So it’s always there in amongst California Institute of Technology, University of California Berkeley, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, Austin Academy of Science, Oxford University and there always Broken Hill Observatory.”
Trevor said that although Broken Hill is very isolated, that it’s a very diverse community.
“I think you learn resilience in Broken Hill and problem solving, especially working on the mine... I think there’s just something in the water out here.
“It’s just so varied, people from Broken Hill have excelled in so many different field and we’re only a small community.
“I often thought about whether I should have got into astronomy at an earlier age but then I reflect on my roots in Broken Hill and working on the mines.
“I think the training that I received working on the mines, particularly problem solving that transfers over to what I now do and that is invaluable.
“I couldn’t do the work that I do now for NASA and other research teams around the world if I hadn’t had that experience.”
Trevor’s journey and career in astronomy began in around his late thirties when he first looked up, which he said he never did before; until an apprentice at the mine offered to show him the telescope he and his dad had built.
“I thought why would I look at a telescope but he was persistent and I did go check it out, I’ll never forget it,” he said.
“He pointed out this nondescript point of light and said that’s what we’re going to look at and I looked, I couldn’t believe it,
“I didn’t think it was real - it was Saturn... I thought this can’t be right how can a homemade thing in this lad’s backyard show something that looks almost like an image out of a textbook?
“Fair dinkum it changed my life and it was this whole new world that I just discovered, I didn’t realise existed that I could get at, so I built my first telescope... then I kept building more and then I had to have an observatory to house it and it’s just changed my outlook on life.”
Trevor said he has had a fair bit of support here in Broken Hill.
“Michael Murphy who was the editor of the BDT was always very supportive, Andrew Schmidt and Sarah McConnell of the ABC, I just can’t thank them enough for tolerating my ramblings on a pretty regular basis.
“Broken Hill has for a very long time had international recognition in the fields of mining and the arts and I’m very proud to have possibly extended that to astronomy which is possibly not something one would expect.
“My mother, father and brother would be just so proud. My Dad knew a bit about resilience... And he would love this.”
Trevor thanked his wife Cheryl, he said without her he couldn’t do what he does.
“She puts up with a lot,” he said.