Saturn shots bring world renown
Saturday, 14th May, 2011
By John Casey
Internationally recognised Broken Hill astronomer Trevor Barry has captured spectacular images of a fierce electrical storm raging around the planet Saturn.
From his BH observatory, Mr Barry has recorded data and photos that will be published throughout the world.
“I have to say it has been a very exciting time,” Mr Barry said yesterday.
“It has been fantastic not only to enjoy and capture these images but then to know my work is being used by some of the world’s leading organisations like Oxford University in the U.K. and NASA in the United States gives me a great feeling.
“Any time you receive international recognition is pleasing, not only for me but for the city of Broken Hill as well.”
The rare electrical storm swirling around Saturn is the biggest, brightest and most intense ever seen in our Solar System (apart from those associated with the Sun).
“This is a unique phenomena,” he said. “The data and images from this will be used forever as a reference in the history of our Solar System and to know that Broken Hill will be listed as a part of that is mind-blowing.”
The United States-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and 16 other countries are spending billions of dollars on the Cassini spacecraft and its mission to Saturn and Mr Barry’s images will sit alongside their data.
“Who would have thought an amateur astronomer using a home-made telescope out in the middle of nowhere would be given this type of recognition?” Mr Barry enthused.
“In many ways this will put Broken Hill on the map as far as world astronomy is concerned.”
According to Mr Barry, despite the magnitude of the electrical storm surrounding Saturn there will be no impact on Earth because of the distance between the planets.
“Saturn is 1.4 billion kilometres away so despite the lightning associated with the electrical storm being 10,000 times more intense than we see here on earth it won’t influence our environment.”
The second largest planet in the Solar System, Saturn has an average radius almost 10 times larger than the Earth and rotates more than twice as fast.
Mr Barry said his recent work with Saturn and the international recognition he had received had been one of the highlights of his astronomy career since he graduated from Swinburne University in Melbourne in 2005.
“To think that an ex-mine worker using a $20,000 telescope would be on the same par as a planetary physicist from Oxford University with all their resources gives me a warm fuzzy feeling,” he said.
“I think this collaboration will go a long way to bringing professional and amateur astronomers much closer together and our work will be appreciated and respected a little more.”
Broken Hill’s location, being so far from the coast and not near forests and mountains, coupled with the flat terrain, made it a perfect spot for astronomy, according to Mr Barry.
“Anyone with a small six-inch (15-centimetre) telescope and a Star Wheel can enjoy the unique phenomena on display around Saturn at the moment.”