Eyes will turn skyward as Ballarat residents join in for a world record attempt during Stargazing Live this month

STARRY EYED: Laurence Burk, Kath Blackwell and Trevor Kay get in some practice before the Stargazing Live world record attempt at Ballarat Municipal Observatory on May 23. Picture: Lachlan Bence
STARRY EYED: Laurence Burk, Kath Blackwell and Trevor Kay get in some practice before the Stargazing Live world record attempt at Ballarat Municipal Observatory on May 23. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Gazing at the stars is often a solitary activity as you contemplate what is out there in space, but not this month.

On May 23, hundreds of skywatchers at Ballarat Municipal Observatory and at dozens of other sites across the country will be part of an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the Most People Stargazing Across Multiple Venues.

For the record, participants will stargaze at the moon through a telescope or binoculars for 10 minutes simultaneously across multiple sites throughout Australia.

The event is part of the ABC’s astronomical Stargazing Live broadcast, with physicist and astronomer Professor Brian Cox and host Julia Zemiro, which will see thousands of eyes will gaze skyward, or peer through binoculars and telescopes, at star parties at observatories across Australia.

The current world record, which stands at 7960 people across 37 locations, was set during the same event in 2015. This year’s goal is to set a record so large it will be nearly impossible to break.

Ballarat Observatory manager Judith Bailey said the observatory would open from 7pm to 10pm with the record attempt taking place during a 10 minute window between 8pm and 9pm.

“I think increasingly people are interested because it’s so much easier to access information now and people on Facebook see events they can actually look at themselves,” Ms Bailey said.

People want to see meteors, comets, auroras and witness that sort of thing and we are seeing a lot of interest in that.

Ballarat Observatory manager Judith Bailey

The $7.15 ticket price per person is actually the purchase price of a 3cm aluminium tube telescope with a small tripod, slide focuser and about 30x magnification, which will allow viewers to see the craters of the moon as they gaze skyward for 10 minutes.

People are also welcome to bring their own binoculars or telescopes and for them the event is free.

Last time the event was held there were about 200 participants, and this year Ms Bailey is hoping to have 400 people for the world record event.

If Ballarat weather is unfavourable, the event will still take place as only a 10 minute viewing window is needed for the record attempt. But if the weather fails to clear at all, Ballarat will be disqualified and the number of participants won’t count toward the record.