Holly, with a large homemade telescope, and young astronomers Jackson and Jade in Canberra. (ABC News: Michael Black)
People all around Australia will be gathering and looking at the sky tonight in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record for stargazing.
The current world record for the most people stargazing across multiple venues, set in 2015 by the Australian National University, is 7,960 people across 37 locations.
Tonight, with more than 200 stargazing parties registered and thousands of telescopes delivered across the country, organisers say another world record could be within reach.
Brian Cox tweet: A group of Stargazers ready to break a world record tonight on StargazingABC tonight at 9 on ABCTV
Emily Stoles tweet: Good to see husband lay out all the essentials for tonight’s record attempt: optics for himself, me & kids. StargazingABC StargazingWorldRecordANU
“We have to beat both the amount of people, and the amount of locations,” Brad Tucker, the astrophysicist and astronomer from ANU who coordinated 2015’s world record, and was also involved in planning tonight’s attempt, told the ABC.
“We expect a great turnout all across the country — there’s 5,000 alone here at the Canberra site — there’s tonnes around Sydney, Western Australia, I think Birdsville even has 100 people.
“There’s one town in South Australia where the population’s 500, and so far 400 are turning up.
“It’s really a nationwide effort.”
Alan Duffy tweet: Oh Parkes you are one gorgeous telescope. Let’s break a world record! StargazingABC
For the world record to happen, all participants need to be looking through a telescope or a pair of binoculars for 10 minutes, starting from 8:40pm AEST.
“Because not everyone has one, we purchased 30,000 telescopes — and all 30,000 have been shipped across the country,” Dr Tucker said.
“Obviously there are going to be some sites that don’t qualify due to weather and stuff … but 30,000 telescopes arrived in the Port of Brisbane two weeks ago, and now they are all over Australia.”
Robert Hollow tweet: Want to know what 3000 telescopes look like? Here you go at Centennial Park. StargazingABC CSIROnews
Keen astronomers around Australia started setting up in the early afternoon, and most parties are scheduled to start at 7:00pm.
“It’s going to be a fantastic night, and luckily most of the country is clear,” Dr Tucker said.
Tamara Davis twitter video: This is not a small endeavour! Some of the crew eating dinner earlier, getting ready for StargazingABC
Brook Daniels tweet: The sky is clear, the stars will be bright – and registration is open at Lake Canobolas Scouts near Orange, for tonight’s #StargazingABC event.
Sydney Science tweet: The Great Hall of @Sydney_Uni is bustling with eager-to-be world-record breakers!
While a lot of the country saw clear skies in the lead-up to tonight, some parties on the east coast were not so lucky.
Meteorologist and ABC weather presenter Nate Byrne said a high-pressure system over the middle of the country means there is likely to be clear skies in outback areas, but that same high could cause clouds in the south-east.
“There’s a lot of cloud over some really populated areas,” he said.
Jen King tweet: It’s a perfect night for StargazingABC in Brisbane! Just bumped into some schoolgirls who are doing a 10km run around the city and then sleeping out all night. Ping abcbrisbane
Alex tweet: ABCTV no stargazing here in Melbs. Just a lot of annoying cloud StargazingABC
For the world record attempt, Dr Tucker said it is likely stargazers will be watching the Moon, but there are other things for amateur astronomers to look out for.
“In the early evening to the east there’s Jupiter, in the early evening to the west there’s Venus … and then Saturn’s rising later, so there’s lots of great things to see in the night-time sky,” Dr Tucker said.
“It’s going to be out of this world.”
iTelescope.Net tweet: The cast and crew of Stargazing SSO getting ready for tonight’s Live shoot