Tourism promoters sit on their hands as Alice feeds Venus transit images to the world


It appears NT tourism promoters have fumbled an opportunity to capitalise on free world-wide publicity for Alice Springs when Venus transited the sun today.
The American space agency NASA picked The Alice as one of two sites around the globe to record a live feed of images on the internet.
Columbus State University scientist Michael Johnson told the ABC that Alice Springs quickly became the main live streaming site worldwide as the other NASA site, in Mongolia, had clouded over and the sun had set in the United States.
An early glitch caused by a road worker near Mataranka inadvertently chopping the fiber optic cable carrying the signal was overcome by routing the images through the internet system of the Alice Springs school where the NASA observation site had been set up.
Alice Springs was set to consolidate, the world over, its reputation as a reliably sunny place.
In fact Mr Johnson told the ABC: “Actually there are two reasons we picked Alice Springs.
“It has great weather during this time of year and it’s also ideal because you can see the entire transit of Venus from Alice Springs.”
Did Tourism NT (TNT) and Tourism Central Australia (TCA) explore opportunities for hammering home, in connection with the transit, the point about The Centre’s great weather?
It doesn’t appear so. A major chance for “leveraging” – that favorite buzzword – has clearly been missed.
Staff for TNT CEO John Fitzgerald and for TCA’s CEO Peter Solly were not aware of any such initiatives.
Neither of them could be contacted: Mr Fitzgerald was on his way to the airport to fly from Darwin to Sydney, and Mr Solly, from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock Resort.
IMAGE: The black dot is Venus. Photo by Alice Springs photographer MIKE GILLAM. See also his comment below.


  1. Erwin you, me, and maybe a few million people all over the world gave a shit about the Transit of Venus. That’s all. Today I had a welding mask at Monte’s and even after I encouraged all staff and patrons to have a look and explained why it was quite special I could tell what they will take with them from the experience … that I am quite an odd person.

  2. I watched it on and off all day on my PC using Stellarium, a free download that tracks the stars at night and the sun by day in real time.
    Well worth adding to your desktop.

  3. An interesting event in that it was what led Cook to Tahiti, for scientific purposes. It was only after this work was done that it became a mission of discovery, with the second part of Cook’s mission to search for the “Great South Land”. A task that saw Cook assisted by a Tahitian native who was able to navigate the reefs and islands using natural seamanship without the aid of modern navigational aids such as (basic) charts and tools.
    So in reality, if it were not for this event, there is a possibility that Australia may not have been claimed for the British, and it could have easily ended up a Spanish or Dutch Colony. I think that not a lot of people realise the significance of this event in our pre-history.

  4. Welding masks were better than nothing but not really a substitute for telescopes – some-one has calculated that Venus, the black dot covers only about 3% of the disc of the sun.
    The 2012 transit of Venus, with all its historical resonance for Australians has been a much publicised and anticipated event. As some-one with an unrefined interest in astronomy I’ve been intending to take photographs for about a year – nothing special – just a bit of fun (see above). Doubtless this public awareness spurred local institutions, schools, hotels and other pockets of enthusiastic residents into action however the transit was not really embraced as a community wide event or one with a special potential for tourism. I’m not sure what the weather was like in Sydney or Melbourne at the time but it was probably fairly depressing in the preceding weeks. It’s hard to imagine therefore that an organised event, complete with lecturers, historians, an astro-physicist or two and NASA links would not have attracted a significant fly in crowd for Alice Springs. I’m not sure if conditions will be as favourable for Alice Springs in 105 years time but I’m hoping the next generation will have the confidence and initiative to seize such a remarkable opportunity.

  5. The link between Alice Springs and Venus is a strong one. Charles Heavitree Todd, after whom so many features of Alice Springs are named, was most interested in setting up a network of telegraph stations so that he could follow his prime interest, that of astronomy. By the early 1880s he had organised a whole range of astronomical studies and was credited as the first person to accurately chart the orbit of Venus. He would have been thrilled with Mike Gillam’s photo. This and other discoveries led him to be awarded the KCMG and to be made a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In our work preceding the revitalisation of the Todd Mall, symbols which linked to this heritage were proposed. This is outlined on the “connectingAlice” website at

  6. Steve, your comments about Charles Todd are timely. He is not well known or appreciated by the local population despite his huge scientific and engineering achievements and the fact that earlier generations made sure his name was attached to a number of significant landmarks. How quickly we forget the substance. He was also a meteorologist who saw the great potential for a system of telegraph stations (established by him in SA, NT and part of WA) as weather reporting stations. So in addition to his role as an astronomer Todd is one of the pioneering greats of Australian weather forecasting. With a little inspired preparation and promotion Alice Springs could still organise a transit of Venus symposium linked with the achievements of Todd, the pioneering scientist. Artistic responses to the transit could be sought and displayed as a one off curated event. The sky is the limit. Todd’s birthday is 7th July but perhaps that is a bit too soon – maybe next year!


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