15 Feb 2014

Australian public Observatory nears completion

dm-gall-observatory-20140214194714748191-620x414Barry Armstead is a DIY master with a vision, and his latest work is set to encourage visitors to look up and think big.

After two years and more than $23,000 spent mainly on building materials, a telescope and its mount, the resourceful handyman's observatory in his southern Canberra front yard will soon welcome lucky children seeking a glimpse of a distant world.

The 25-kilogram telescope was installed last week, and Mr Armstead's newest camera set-up allows the 43-year-old to take photographs of deep space objects.

The former soldier - who in the rest of his spare time has built an impressive Iron Man suit, on display on the ground floor of the two-storey steel observatory - hopes his handiwork will enable visitors to see the beauty of what he believes is a perfect creation.

For the amateur astronomer, the self-made lookout - what he has called ASIGN Observatory II - has brought not just the wonders of the universe closer but also God, and it is something he hopes to share.

dm-wide-observatory-20140214195104284060-620x349"When you see the scale of it all and complexity of it all, it makes you feel very special that it's all made for us,'' he said. ''You can really feel His presence and His touch, His hand in it. With the circulating of the moons, the tides, the placement of our planet in between other planets, we have so many levels of protection here [on Earth] … it's all very, very perfect."

Mr Armstead, a member of an Assemblies of God church, said the five-metre high observatory would be available for religious and secular school and youth groups.

"It is a Christian outreach - I never want to hide that," he said. "But I also want to show them and teach them about the observable universe, how far things are away, and guide them on telescope use."

Mr Armstead said he had no problems from the earthly authorities, with planning approval taking "a month or so". Passing on the generosity that saw the carpet, two computer screens, downstairs TV, fridge and wood donated, as well as significant financial gifts and in-kind labour, free access to the observatory will be given to the young when accompanied by a teacher, parent or guardian.

Some will be just as fascinated by the Iron Man suit, made in the pepakura papercaft style from paper thinner than a greeting card, fibreglass and car body filler.

He would be delighted if an observatory visit led someone to a career as a NASA scientist.

''And if one of them looks at it all and says, 'yep, there's a God,' when I went to heaven I'd be satisfied," he said.

Credit Canberra Times Newspaper.

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