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Unlocking the secrets of Indigenous astronomy

David Prestipino -

It's all systems go at Newcastle Museum, which is set to launch an astronomical 'summer of space exploration' with a particular focus on First Nations astronomy.

As part of its mission to transport budding astronomers to the farthest reaches of the universe this month for its summer of space exploration, a 4K projection system and surround sound technology will take participants on an immersive, 360-degree journey through the solar system, with a presentation designed to unlock the secrets of Indigenous Australian astronomy.

Dubbed Starr's Planetarium, the inflatable mobile planetarium is just one of the space-themed activities on offer at the museum during the school holidays to complement its blockbuster summer exhibition, Australia in Space.

An Australian Indigenous Astronomy spokesperson said First Nations people were the oldest astronomers in the world.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people developed a number of practical ways to observe the sun, moon and stars to inform navigation, calendars, and predict weather," they said.

"Australia's First Nations people assign meaning and agency to astronomical phenomena, which informs law and social structure.

"It also serves as the foundation for narratives that are passed down the generations through song, dance, and oral tradition over tens of thousands of years."

A series of popular free science shows kicked off on the museum's summer program on Wednesday, with fun and educational exploration of the mysteries of space.

A free coding workshop on Thursday will teach participants to create a computer game inspired by the International Space Station.

Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor, Declan Clausen, said the exhibition and activities would excite audiences of all ages, with an emphasis on school-age children.

"Developed by the Questacon National Science and Technology Centre, Australia in Space offers hands-on displays inspired by stories of Australian innovators making it safer to live and work in orbit, and using space technologies to improve life on Earth," Cr Clausen said.

"To complement the exhibition, we're offering a range of free science shows and workshops, as well as the low-cost Starr's Planetarium experience, which will deliver an insightful and inspiring insight into how Indigenous cultures describe constellations that are fundamental to their daily lives.

"I'd encourage our visitors to make a day or weekend trip to explore Australia in Space as well as Newcastle Museum's other exhibitions, activities and collections."

Tickets for Australia in Space cost $15 for adults, $10 for concession card holders, and $7.50 for children between five and 14, with children under five admitted for free. A family pass (two adults and two children) is $40.

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