[ASC-media] Star Turn at National Folk Festival

Darren.Osborne at csiro.au Darren.Osborne at csiro.au
Wed Mar 26 14:04:23 EST 2003


At this year's National Folk Festival there'll be more stars than those on stage and in the eyes of the beholders. Visitors to the Festival will have the chance to see stars - and planets and Black Holes and even the Big Bang (no, not the
drums, Carruthers) at Dr Fred Watson's presentation Folklore of the Sky. Fred is Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo- Australian Observatory at Siding Spring, a regular guest on ABC Radio, a popular and widely-travelled public speaker and a
self-confessed singing, guitar-playing, song-writing folkie.

He will bring his considerable range of talents into play when he takes Festival visitors on a voyage through time and space right back to the beginnings of life as we know it, in a multi-media presentation of demonstrations, stories, songs
("objectively speaking, I'm a pretty crappy singer") and projected images of celestial phenomena that are seriously ooh - aaah!  His talk will explore the role that the sky has played in folklore through the ages.

"Right back to times beyond ancient Egypt and Greece people have attempted to explain life by reference to the skies, " he says. "Perhaps they turned to the heavens for explanations, seeing them as predictable and constant in a world where
life was unpredictable and tenuous. It's an accolade to the inventiveness of those folk that they created stories that have evolved into such wonderful legends."

Fred says that an intriguing feature of such legends is the common strands that often appear in stories from different parts of the world.

"The Seven Sisters star cluster is a good example," he says. "In stories from cultures as widely-separated as Greece and indigenous Australia, the seven stars are sisters in flight, being pursued by Orion the Hunter."

Fred's presentation will touch on the great monuments that people have built to in their attempts to understand and utilise the heavens, including Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids  - and modern-day observatories.

"We have the advantage of seeing the sky in three dimensions, something the ancients didn't have, " he says. 
"At the end of the sixteenth century, even before the invention of the telescope, instruments were devised to make accurate celestial measurements. They revealed for the first time that the stars and planets weren't just lights fixed to a
two-dimensional curved surface-and that quantum step in understanding led to the development of the laws of planetary motion.

"Now, with the ability to see back thirteen billion years-to the beginning of the Universe-we are beginning to understand the mechanisms that make stars and galaxies form and how the whole picture fits together."

Fred points out that every time we look at the sky we are looking back in time-"archæology at a glance". 

"Modern folklore of the sky is based on science and reason," he says, "but that doesn't demean us; it still has the magic to uplift us. After all, we now know that we are composed of atoms recycled through the stars - literally, we are made
of stardust."    

Footnote; Fred will perform his original compositions "Galaxy Redshift Blues", "The Starman's Daughter" and "The Cat Song" (which is only vaguely connected to astronomy but what can you expect from a man whose pet rooster has an ABC
Radio-based fan club?) 
To find some gob-smacking pics, log onto the Anglo-Australian Observatory at www.aao.gov.au, and click the "Images" button.  You can also find Fred's home-page at www.aao.gov.au/local/www/fgw/ To arrange an interview or photocall contact
Jan Nary PR on 07 3379 4178 / 0429 898 328  	

The National Folk Festival runs 17 - 21 April at Exhibition Park in Canberra; 17 performance venues, more than 900 performers, concerts, sessions, workshops, song, dance music. 115 food and craft stalls.... and stars.        
For more information ring 02 62 49 7755 or check www.folkfestival.asn.au

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