Deliver me home please!
The Gravity Discovery Centre

Unlike “Area 51” our top secret deep space discovery centre is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday each week. The centre is closed on Mondays to conduct alien autopsy’s, and restock the Gravity Café.

Respect Gravity.

The centre is located one hour north of Perth, on the flat and bushy Wallingup Plain. It is a lonely desolate place, which looks like the end of the Universe. That makes it ideal for a covert scientific facility. Fortunately the general public, school groups and alien life forms are all welcome. No matter who you are, you can be guaranteed of an astronomical good time.

The Cosmology Gallery and Leaning Tower Of Gingin.

Wallingup Plain:  Pizza Exclusion Zone.

Wallingup Plain: Isolation is very important for the centre.  Even though a galaxy of stars come out every night, the astrophysicists are still yet to convince the local pizza delivery guys to do likewise.

 
      The Leaning Tower Of Gingin
Looking good from every angle.

To divert your attention from the undercover scientific activity, the centre is home to the Leaning Tower of Gingin.  Armed with water balloons, you are encouraged to replicate one of Galileo’s famous experiments, by climbing this 45 metre high structure, and then releasing the balloons through special chutes. Watching them free fall is exciting stuff. Older scientists might just enjoy the breathtaking view across the arid Australian bushland.  Even older scientists might just ponder the 222 steps, and amazing 15 degrees of inclination, from the Gravity Café.

The business end of science!

Ready For Launch!

If you look down a launch chute onto the balloon drop zone, you might think you are seeing the surface of the moon.  Galileo saw a similar image through his early telescope.

The Drop Zone.
 
      The Gravity Discovery Centre

For those not game enough to climb the world’s most leaningest tower, there are plenty of interactive exhibits in the Discovery Centre to have fun with. There are heaps of strange looking devices, powerful magnets, and long pipes to shout through.

Light Bending Exhibit.

Don't get sucked into this exhibit!

Graffiti for the mind.

Watching a tennis ball being sucked into a deadly black hole.

Even the local graffiti artists require university degrees.

Electromagnetic iPod Charger.

WARNING:  There was so much electromagnetic radiation emanating from the exhibits, my iPod fully recharged.  So for older scientists with pacemakers, you guessed it… the Gravity Café.

So if you enjoy looking through big pipes, and making funny noises, you’ll love this place.  This strange blue device bent light, and then debited my credit card.

 
      The Zadko Telescope and Southern Cross Cosmos Centre

Zadko Telescope.

Our planet is constantly under threat from rogue asteroids, and deadly gamma ray bursts. Fortunately, all of these dangerous cosmic events can be detected by the Gravity Centre’s, Zadko Telescope. Gamma ray bursts are the most violent explosions in the Universe since the Big Bang. Gamma Ray astronomy is still in it’s infancy, though these high energy radiation bursts are thought to be released following the explosion of giant stars.

GAMMA RAY ALERT:  In January 2009 a team of astrophysicists using the Zadko Telescope detected light from a deadly gamma ray explosion, that occurred over 11 billion years ago! Lucky for us, all the gamma ray bursts detected so far, have occurred in distant galaxies. If one pops up in our galaxy, it would spell bad news for life on Earth. There are roughly three gamma ray bursts in the Universe each day, so it is nice to know that the guys in the Zadko are keeping an eye out for these things.

Smiley Moon.  The lighter side of astronomy.

If you find all this cataclysmic astronomy unsettling, you could always book an evening at the Southern Cross Cosmos Centre. Here you can look at more friendly bodies, such as the Moon or your star sign. We visited the centre at midday and were rather disappointed by the poor star count. However, we did manage to snap this unusual smiley conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon, which broke the uneasy tension following our introduction to gamma ray bursts.

Smiley Moon: Welcome proof there are greater forces at work up there. Venus is in the top left, next to Jupiter. 

 

 
      The Australian International Gravitational Observatory

It was comforting to know that while we were dropping water balloons off the tower, there was some serious work being done downstairs in the Gravity Labs. Hidden safely away from the tourist exhibits, is the top secret Australian International Gravity Observatory (AIGO). It is from here that a crack team of leading scientists are working to ultimately detect, and interpret gravity waves. These waves are formed from gravitational disturbances, which include supernova explosions, black holes, and ultimately the BIG BANG. Gravity Waves are ripples which travel through space, and virtually any object they encounter on the way. Yes… that includes you and me. They stretch and shrink everything they pass through. However, not even an Emo can detect these minute vibrations, so scientists are developing something even more sensitive. Using a special Laser Interferometer, our scientists hope to listen to gravity waves from the “Big Bang”, and possibly eavesdrop on extraterrestrial communications. The vibrating gravity waves are the sounds of the universe, and may hold the answers to life , the universe, and everything.

Biodiversity Walk

Armed with the centre’s Official Biodiversity Bushwalk map, we accidentally wandered into the top secret Gravitational Wave Observatory. I lost 30 minutes of my life, 10 camera images, and woke up in… you guessed it… the Gravity Café.  So school kids, when the teacher says stay with the group, you should stay with the group. The guys at the centre, kindly left this image of the Laser Interferometer on my memory card.

The Top Secret Laser Interferometer in action.

TIP: Some walkers on the Biodiversity Bushwalk have been buzzed by unidentified flying objects. Life On Perth suggests spraying on fly repellent before leaving.

TOP SECRET:  Gravitational Wave Observatory.

How Does It Work?

The vibrations generated by gravity waves are extremely faint, meaning Laser Interferometers need to be incredibly sensitive, and isolated from other disturbances. The silica sand of the Wallingup Plain is rather good at absorbing earthly seismic waves.

The detector assembly is made up of two really long vacuum pipes, situated at right angles to each other. A super bright laser beam is split in two, and sent down the pipes. The beams are reflected back by super mirrors, with such precision they would ordinarily cancel each other out!

Laser Interferometer.

By a stroke of good luck, gravity waves vibrate, and this upsets the perfect equilibrium when they pass through the laser beams. This excites the laser light, and the resulting variation in brightness is noticed by light sensors. This disturbance is amplified, and sent to a speaker, where a group of super excited scientists eagerly listen in. The longer the vacuum pipes are, the better they become at detecting Gravity Waves. This is because the wave disturbance in the laser beam is more pronounced, with increased length. Size matters when it comes to Laser Interferometers, and our scientists have a 5km pipe dream. They are presently happy with their 80 metre system, or so they say.

Arm of the existing Gravitational Wave Detector.

Gravity Wave detection requires a worldwide array of laser interferometers, of which the Gingin Observatory is the Southern Hemisphere arm. Using a network of detectors around the world, the direction of a wave can then be calculated, by observing it’s varying arrival times at different locations.

 
      The Cosmology Gallery and Gravity Café.

The Cosmology Gallery.

The World's biggest soccer ball.

Next door to the Discovery Centre is the mysterious Cosmology Gallery. The gallery challenges your mind, with the big questions about life, the universe, and why is the roof shaped like a giant 20 metre “buckyball”? You will leave the building asking more questions than when you entered, so you might just want to sit this one out. It is still possible to walk around the inside of the buckyball, and not ask yourself the big questions. You could always think about lunch in the Gravity Café.

Stargazers Café:  Starting to feel hungry after all that scientific activity? Why not experiment with the menu in the Gravity Café. The space time continuum definitely slows down in this place. You only have to order the Cosmic Chicken Burger to find this out.  The burger arrives with a Big Bang, though just like the universe, you’ll struggle to reach the end. If I hadn’t been worrying so much about the next gamma ray burst, I might have finished the chips. As far as Top Secret Deep Space Discovery Centre restaurants go, we’ll give the Gravity Cafe a galaxy full of stars. 

Everyone eventually gravitates towards the Stargazers Cafe.

 

LOCATION:  The Gravity Discovery Centre is a one hour drive north of Perth.  You can let the gravity pull you in, though Life On Perth recommends using a road map for the tricky bits.

 

 

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