North West Slopes, NSW audio tour: Virtual Solar System Drive from Siding Springs Observatory with Fred Watson

Virtual Solar System Drive from Siding Springs Observatory with Fred Watson

Driving Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

Take a driving tour of the world’s largest Virtual Solar System with Fred Watson, Astronomer-in-Charge of Australia's biggest telescope for 20 years, and Marnie Ogg, the director of Dark Sky Traveller. As you drive, Fred and Marnie will point out several billboards with three-dimensional planet models, scaled relative to the Anglo-Australian Telescope dome at Siding Springs Observatory, positioned to represent the sun. Your journey through the Astronomy Capital of Australia starts at Siding Spring Observatory and goes all the way to Coonabarabran's Visitor Information Centre, a stone’s throw from where Saturn would be.

Along the way, they’ll teach you about our solar system as you travel through the virtual one. Fred Watson is Australia’s first Astronomer-at-Large and an award-winning science communicator. He has an asteroid named after him, 5691 Fredwatson, but says that if it hits the Earth, it won’t be his fault.

Tour Producer


Marnie Ogg

For nearly 30 years, Marnie has been bringing tourism, science and people together. A passion for travel, teamed up with partner astronomer Fred Watson, they have experienced astronomy destinations in more than 80 countries. However, the natural asset Australia has with the abundant and clear night skies has led her to create unique Australian experiences.
The combination of her tour company - Dark Sky Traveller - and her role as the Founder and CEO of the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance encourage people to get out and enjoy the pristine nighttime environment Australia has on offer.

Major Landmarks

  • Siding Spring Observatory

  • Warrumbungle National Park

  • Virtual Solar System Planets

  • geological landmarks

Directions to Starting Point

This tour starts in the car park of Siding Spring Observatory, Observatory Road, and heads back into the town of Coonabarabran along the Virtual Solar System Drive.

Show Directions
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Places to stop along the way

There are 5 designated planets, on this journey from Siding Spring Observatory travelling towards Coonabarabran Visitor Information Centre. The best places to take photos are at Saturn and on Siding Spring Mountain where you'll see Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Best time of day

This is a day time experience, starts at Siding Spring Observatory. Please check the Siding Spring Observatory Facebook page for opening times as they vary throughout the year.


Please be careful when stopping at the planets, and pulling in and out of the designated areas with the billboards. If you're travelling at dusk or dawn, watch out for Kangaroos. They are plentiful and can do significant damage.


Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
Virtual Solar System Drive from Siding Springs Observatory with Fred Watson