The Townsville Astronomy Group was established c1990 with Richard Free as the founding member along with an enthusiastic core group of about 6. Richard was a physics teacher, and his talks, which were held at the local high school, were very informative and interesting and always attracted a good turnout. Scopes were set up at the school, so a bit of light affected our viewing from the city, and occasionally, the school sprinklers gave us a scare, and had us running for cover. We wanted an informal group, without committees and membership fees, we just wanted to chat and set up our scopes, observe and have fun.
Viewing at our latitude of -19 dg is an interesting task. There is humidity all year round, and even in the ‘drier’ months, we suffer from the humidity with water dripping off our scopes, fogged up finder scopes, and very damp star atlases etc. In our ‘wet’ season from Nov – March, we have to abandon our viewing nights as the atmosphere is virtually laden with moisture. Our viewing astronomical year typically runs from March to November, but we are know to have impromptu sessions if the weather allows.
There are also some bonuses with observing at our latitude in that we have many clear nights during winter. Another bonus is that we are able to observe more of the Northern constellations, than our Southern friends. Richard Free was constantly amazed that he was able to see some of his beloved Northern constellations. We have good views of Andromeda, Perseus, Lacerta, Auriga, and can see Ursa Major on the horizon, though unable to see the Great Bear’s famous galaxies. Also, the ecliptic runs virtually right above us, making for some wonderful planetary observing. Unfortunately, the Southern Cross is unseen during our summer months, unless we are up in the wee hours of the morning. The aim of the group, apart from the usual obsessions with the DSO’s, planets, comets, telescopes etc, is to encourage more people to enjoy astronomy. To this end, we hold monthly public viewing sessions down on The Strand, which are well attended by both the group’s members and the general public.