It might come as a surprise to learn that most people on the earth have never seen the milky way. Whilst they will have seen some of the stars that belong to the galaxy, the faint wisps of white that streak across our night sky are almost completely obscured by light pollution in the planet’s more populous areas.
Inland rural Australia is blessed with both pristine skies, and an enviable view of the milky way – it sits almost directly overhead for those in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s little wonder that this magnificent starscape has become the muse for a collaborative project between artists, writers and astronomers.
A few months ago a series of skywriter’s groups were launched throughout the Central West, strategically seeded alongside an array of telescopes and observatories, with the intention to inspire sky-centred work. Last weekend the Big Gig brought together dozens of these writers and astronomers, who gathered in Parkes for the first skywrit- er’s event.
The gig kicked off with a passionate discus- sion by a panel of astronomers, who shared their personal connection to the night sky. Mayor Ken Keith, Merrill Findlay and the guest astronomers discussed the potential for further developing astro-tourism in the region, and sparked ideas for harnessing the untapped resource that twinkles above us as we sleep.
The attendees were also given an insight into Indigenous astronomy. Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney shared an exhibition of his constel- lation art, and Ellie Gilbert screened her fea- ture length film, Star Stories of The Dream- ing.
But the weekend was about words as much as it was about wonder. A series of panel sessions featuring some of the sky- writers explored different literary themes and mediums, and offered practical skills. Astronomers, bloggers, journalists, storytellers and poets took advantage of the chance to exchange ideas, share their work, and form networks.
By Raen Fraser