“We are morning and evening sky watchers. We live right on the sea front and see the most superb skies with all the constellations. We have wonderful views of the moon over the sea and every sunrise,” says Penny Hunstead.
Penny and Dick Hunstead met on Newport Beach. They still live there and have been watching its changing skies together for over 47 years. That’s when Dick, also known as Professor Richard Hunstead of the University of Sydney, is not sky-watching professionally.
For nearly 50 years, just slightly longer than his marriage, Professor Hunstead has been researching astronomy and teaching physics to students at the university.
“I was lucky to join the university just at the time radio astronomy was an up-and-coming science, which offered a different way of viewing the cosmos. It was a thrill during my PhD to work with the Mills Cross radio telescope, then one of the newest instruments to change the face of the discipline.”
Professor Hunstead went on to make several important discoveries and has published over 200 articles, with quasars, black holes, galaxy formation and evolution just some of his areas of interest.
For his contribution and dedication, especially to his students, Penny Hunstead decided that any money they gave to the university should be in Dick’s name.
The $1.4 million Dick Hunstead Fund for Astrophysics will support the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA). The Institute, based in the School of Physics, is one of the most diverse astrophysics groupings within Australia, spanning optical, radio, infrared, X-ray, theoretical and computational astrophysics.
“We’d previously given small amounts of $500 or $1000 to the University, but this was a chance to give this crucial institute the support it deserves. The money will help current students and encourage more to take up study in this area,” said Professor Hunstead.
There has been a substantial growth in astrophysics internationally, driven largely by the developments of new observational facilities.
SIfA’s most valuable instrument is the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, a forerunner of the international Square Kilometre Array project.
“It is crucial that the institute positions itself to make the most of opportunities. As part of lifting its profile I want prominent astronomers such as Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge, to visit.”
Whenever Dick takes students out to Siding Spring Observatory they are transfixed, astronomers and non-astronomers alike, by the beauty of its night sky.
“That wonder and fascination is what I still feel for astronomy. The field is on the cusp of a new era of discoveries across the whole electromagnetic spectrum. But of course the most exciting discoveries are the ones we cannot yet name or even imagine.”
Dick and Penny share many interests, including a love of native plants (Penny is a trained botanist) and a shared life-long commitment to philanthropy, including volunteering.
A favourite saying of Penny’s is one of Mahatma Gandhi’s: ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’
This gift celebrates Professor Hunstead’s service to the University and the couple’s shared philosophy as embodied in Gandhi’s quote.
Gifts to the University contribute to INSPIRED – the campaign to support the University of Sydney which aims to raise $600 million from 50,000 donors to fund the pursuit of ideas that will shape the world in which we live.