Home' The Chronicle : Canberra Chronicle 12-01-16 Contents Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 14
Amateur stargazer discovers galaxy
Amateur astronomer and former strongman Michael Sidonio has discovered a new galaxy named NGC
253-dw2. He has his personal telescope at Terroux Observatory in Wallaroo.
Photo: Jeffrey Chan
As captain of the Australian
strongman team Michael Sidonio
conquered the physical world, but his
past achievements pale beside the
astronomical find he helped uncover.
With a paper in the Monthly Notices
of the Royal Astronomical Society,Mr
Sidonio, a security controller at the
ACT s Legislative Assembly, and his
co-authors announced the existence of
NGC 253-dw2, a new galaxy.
One clear night, from his tiny
observatory on the outskirts of
Canberra, Mr Sidonio captured what
he thought was a beautiful photograph
of a galaxy about 11.5 million light
years from the Milky Way.
A tiny, barely perceptible smudge
on the edge of the image caught the
attention of astrophysicists.
Mr Sidonio had noticed the same
smudge, but brushed it off as a galaxy
that someone else, surely, had already
seen. Bigger telescopes and further
investigations by a team of
professional astronomers confirmed it
was a new find.
It seemed grand in one scheme,
when you say, I discovered a galaxy ,
and then you see a little smudge on a
photograph, near a beautiful, pretty
picture of another galaxy, Mr Sidonio
In a suburb of Newcastle, a 15-year-
old Michael Sidonio purchased a
telescope to point across the valley
before realising he could turn it up to
His now mostly electronic telescope
still points upwards, where it sits at his
Terroux Observatory, at a high point
on a horse-raising property in the Yass
When you re out here at midnight,
it s a perfectly clear night, there s not
a breath of wind and the telescope s
chugging away and it s getting really
good data on amazing objects, I make
a cup of coffee, sit on the chair and go,
How good s this? , Mr Sidonio said.
Mr Sidonio, whose success as a
strongman put him on the Weet-Bix
box twice, is humbled by the company
he keeps as co-author on an
astrophysics scientific paper. But he
believes there is a role for backyard
astronomers in peeling back the
mysteries of the universe.
I m just a little amateur who
happened to get lucky, and was able to
provide a bit of information so we
could discover a little bit more about
the universe -- so that is pretty cool.
Science cares very little where the
information it uses comes from, said
Australia s most renowned
astrophysicist, the Nobel prize-
winning Brian Schmidt.
The great thing about discoveries
is they re often surprises, Professor
Too little time
The North Canberra Community
Council will not hold its first public
meeting until February. This is usual
practice other community councils
follow, however, that does not mean
the ACT government s consultation
schedule has taken a similar break.
The Environment and Planning
Directorate has allowed public
notification or representations for
development applications in
December and January, during a
holiday period when many are away.
Lack of hands on deck makes it less
likely for representations before the
notification deadline. The EPD s
webpage acknowledges this with
special arrangements during the
Christmas and New Year period.
The arrangements are welcome but
insufficient. The webpage listing open
DAs recently showed that, of 22 listed
in Canberra Central, only two had
deadlines after January 31.
Important holiday period DAs
include last year s Coles-Doma DA for
the Dickson Woolworths car park. In
addition, a recent decision with the DA
for the Braddon Club was notified on
December 23, making January 20 the
deadline for appealing to ACAT.
This clearly contradicts the ACT
government s stated policy of
increasing consultation. The
government must quarantine
December and January from the
notification period for DAs and other
decisions. Mike Hettinger, chairman
LANES TO CLOSE FOR
Motorists can expect lane closures on
Bindubi Street in Belconnen this
month as a new $21 million joint
emergency services hub is built at
But ACT Emergency Services
Agency Commissioner Dominic Lane
hosed down concerns the building
work would create a repeat of the
traffic chaos caused by construction of
the Tuggeranong fire station at Tharwa
this time last year.
The temporary closures will be
between Belconnen Way and Bardi
Place at the northern end of the street
from Monday, January 11, to Friday,
January 29. The closure is to allow
contractors to connect utilities to the
new Belconnen Ambulance and Fire
and Rescue Station. The speed limit on
the street will be lowered to 40km/hr
and at least one lane will remain open.
All creatures great and small offered for half price
Director of animal
welfare Jane Gregor
George at the
RSPCA shelter at
Weston. The RSPCA
is reducing the price
of adult dogs and
cats to clear the
backlog of animals.
Photo: Graham Tidy
It s easy to fall in love with an adorable
puppy or kitten at an animal shelter
and feel a desire to keep them, but
should their age determine their right
to a chance at finding a new home?
The RSPCA ACT is offering half-
price adoptions for about 90 adult
animals for one week, as the Weston
shelter nears capacity.
These great and small creatures
include dogs (16), cats (10), rabbits
(25), guinea pigs (two) and a range
of birds, including roosters (five),
budgies (23), cockatiels (11) and
Until Wednesday, it costs $162.50
to adopt a dog, $97.50 for a cat and
$40 to take a rabbit home, providing
they are all more than six months old.
During this period, ducks and guinea
pigs cost $15, birds start at $10 and
roosters are free.
The RSPCA has adopted more than
200 animals in the past two weeks, but
some adult animals have remained
there for more than 100 days.
Staff were becoming increasingly
strained, RSPCA ACT director of
animal welfare Jane Gregor said.
We cannot accept new animals.
We have been unable to take new dog
surrenders for over a month. The older
animals sometimes get overlooked
when there are many puppies and
kittens. Overpopulation also makes
it harder to control diseases.
Opting for an older pet had many
advantages, Ms Gregor said.
Some of them have been trained to
sit and walk well on a lead, owners can
know their personality, nature, and full
size, and all adult cats and dogs are
desexed, microchipped, vet checked
and behaviourally assessed.
We are in the middle of the kitten
season, so we will see many more
kittens come into care in the next few
months, she said, but many people
do not realise that we also rehome
many different types of animals.
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