Mark Rigby, Curator of Brisbane Planetarium in Toowong, to Retire After 36 Years

Did you know that there is a “minor planet” named after Brisbane? The man who made this happen in 2009 is Mark Rigby, the curator of the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium in Toowong, who will soon say goodbye to his role as the ultimate “Aussie Starman” after 36 years.

Mr Rigby has been the driving force behind the popular planetarium visited by every child in Brisbane in the last three decades. The curator has been on top of thousands of sessions at the Brisbane Planetarium year after year since he joined as an assistant curator in 1985.

In 2006, Mr Rigby approached astronomer Robert H. McNaught to have one of his asteroid discoveries named after Brisbane. Mr McNaught has discovered over 50 comets and 400 asteroids in his career and the astronomer could not refuse Mr Rigby’s request because it seemed like kismet.

Mr McNaught was born near the birthplace of Sir Thomas Brisbane in Ayrshire, Scotland. His birthday falls on the death anniversary of the famous astronomer and governor. 

After agreeing, Mr Rigby then sought the help of the International Astronomical Union and worked double time to have asteroid 5277 named Brisbane to coincide with the city’s 150th birthday. 

Asteroid Brisbane might be a minor planet but if it were to impact the Earth, it could form a crater as big as 80 diametres. Orbiting the Sun every 3.5 years, Asteroid Brisbane can’t be seen through the naked eye and only through a good telescope when the skies are dark. The last time it was spotted by astronomers was in August 2020 at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii. 

Meanwhile, because of his valuable contribution to the city and in making the Brisbane Planetarium such a unique, educational and entertaining destination,  Lord Mayor Adrian Schinner recognised and thanked Mr Rigby for his service. 

Photo Credit: Mark Rigby/Twitter

His final year at the Brisbane Planetarium coincides with the completion of the upgrades and the re-opening after the COVID-19 lockdowns.  

Travel Through Space at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium in Toowong

Toowong is a great choice for family-friendly trips, but if you are looking for a place where everyone could learn while having fun, head to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium on Mount Coot-tha Rd.

A five-kilometre drive from the city centre, the planetarium adjacent to the captivating Brisbane Botanic Gardens is home to a number of attractions: the Cosmic Skydome, Display Zone, Mini Theatre, Observatory, Galaxy Gift Shop, and Sundial Courtyard.

Can’t wait to see all these attractions? Here are the things to make the most of your family trip experience:

Top 10 Things to Do

  1. Check out Brisbane’s Night Sky. The highlight of your planetarium visit is a show in the Cosmic Skydome, which boasts a 12.5m diameter projection dome that recreates a stunning realistic night sky. You will have a guided tour of the Brisbane sky, when the astronomer will point out planets, stars, and constellations which are visible that night.
  2. Visit the foyer at Display Zone. The zone has a foyer area where interesting artefacts and displays await. Take a closer look at fragments of asteroids, spacecraft models and a well-known replica of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo spacesuit.
  3. Explore the Milky Way and the Moon’s cratered surface. Whilst it’s just an interactive display, it lets you learn about astronomical history and technology in an exciting way. The display can be found on the gallery section, where you can also find modern telescopes and ancient instruments alike.
  4. Have a detailed view of many wonders of the Universe. Head to the observatory, where you can see the Moon, planets, and star clusters through the eyepiece. Such night tours occur on selected Saturday nights and are subject to weather condition.
  5. Be enthralled with sci-fi adventures. Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium features entertaining and informative shows for all ages. General audience shows include Starlight, Passport to the Universe, and Tales of a Time Traveler while children’s shows include the Perfect Little Planet and Tycho to the Moon.

6. Get to know more about Sir Thomas Brisbane. Apparently, the city of Brisbane was named after him. But are you wondering why the planetarium was also under his name? That’s because he’s an astronomer himself and he is Australia’s first patron of science! Get to know more about his life and the astronomical observatory he built at Parramatta when you visit the planetarium.

7. Shop project kits and space-themed books. When you have the penchant for star charts, books, spacecraft models, and fossils, you can find all of them in the planetarium’s Galaxy Gift Shop. They also have souvenirs and novelty items to remind you of your little space adventure.

8. Have a unique date night on Friday nights. If you only have the weekends to spare but worried that the planetarium will be crowded on Saturdays and Sundays then go out on a Friday night!

9. Learn about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Brisbane City Council acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the first Australians or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Get to know more about some of their leaders in an exhibit curated by astronomer and academic Dr Duane Hamacher.

10. Sit and relax at the Sundial Courtyard. Finally, after hours of exploring the planetarium, there is this spot where you can rest those tired feet. Yet the fun does not stop there because the Sundial lets you tell the time by applying a correction factor given on the plaque on the column.

The planetarium opens Tuesdays to Sundays and closes on Mondays and holidays. They highly recommend bookings, especially during Queensland school holidays. For enquiries about reservations, venue hire, school bookings and general or observatory enquiries, use the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium booking enquiry form.