About the project
The World’s Largest Virtual Solar System Drive was an idea generated by Coonabarabran astronomer John Shobbrook in 1997. The aim was to provide a unique opportunity for tourists and students to experience first hand the vastness of our Solar System and develop an interest in astronomy and science.
A decade later the project became a reality following Warrumbungle Shire Council’s successful grant through the Federal Government’s AusIndustry Australian Tourism Development Program. Council’s tourism and economic development unit teamed together with local astronomy enthusiasts to kick start the half-a-million dollar project.
Local talent was contracted for the design and installation. Coolah Fibreglass moulded the three-dimensional planets, which range from 5cm to 3.9 metres in diameter. Steve Walker Signwriting in Coonabarabran completed the artwork for the signs and Newton’s Mechanical Repairs was contracted for the design fabrication and installation of the 4 metre by 4 metre billboards.
The focus of the project is to develop a sustainable tourism industry and boost economic development in the region. The Solar System Drive contributes to the Roads and Traffic Authority’s (RTA) road safety campaign by providing incentives for travellers to stop at rest areas and Visitor Information Centres as they journey through regional New South Wales.
The Solar System Drive is a daytime experience where visitors are encouraged to stop at each planet in a safe manner, taking care when pulling off and back onto the roadway. It is important visitors note that Siding Spring Observatory is only open during the day, between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm weekends and public holidays. Night-time experiences of the Solar System are on offer at various observatories located along the drive.