Lasers, fireworks, iridescence and more: the Year of Light is upon us

From Ken Baldwin, Chair International Year of Light 2015 in Australia

The International Year of Light will kick-off in Australia with the Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what their Inspire theme brings, as well as the Harbour of Light Parade and the Pylon Projections on Sydney Harbour Bridge—all of which seem like a fitting way to begin the Year of Light.

Then, over the rest of the Year, there are a whole host of exciting events, festivals and activities contributing to the Year including: Iridescence at the SA Museum, Enlighten in Canberra, VIVID in Sydney, and the International Year of Light Opening Ceremony, in Paris in March.

Melbourne’s  Light in Winter festival at Fed Square will showcase lasers this year and host forums and fireside chats. Robyn Archer, the Festival’s artistic director has given us an taste of her plans. 

During the year there will also be plenty of opportunities to learn about light, with Questacon, ANU, National Science Week, and the Australian Science Teachers Association all developing activities which we’ll tell you about in the new year.  Meantime, there’s a wealth of educational materials available on the International Year of Light website

I’d like to thank our most recent sponsors CUDOS (the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems) and the Astronomical Society of Australia for their support. 

There is still plenty of time for you to develop and promote your own activities as part of this year-long celebration of light. And right now you can contribute by: 

Adding your planned events to the calendar

Tell us about your Year of Light activities and we’ll help you get the word out. When you submit an event on our website it will be featured on the website and in this newsletter.


Becoming a sponsor

We need your help to provide the glue to maximise the potential of the Year—through the media, social media and networking events. And we’re also looking for sponsors, who will be recognised through our website, newsletter, media opportunities and at events. If you’d like to know more about sponsoring the Year of Light in Australia, email me

Using the twitter tag

Join the conversation and promote your activities to an international audience by using the tag #IYL2015. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter @LightYearAu.

Lending us your voice

We’re looking people who are willing and able to chat with the media about light and light-based technologies. If you’re available in late December or early January and can assist, let me and Niall Byrne know by emailing

I wish you all a safe and happy summer. See you in 2015.

Ken Baldwin
Chair International Year of Light 2015 Australia
Director of the Energy Change Institute at The Australian National University


Light News for December


Light across Australia—upcoming events and activities

Year of Light events will be ramping up from January and there is a full year of events, exhibitions and festivals coming together around the country. International Year of Light will kick-off in Australia with the Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks, produced by the City of Sydney. There will be two fireworks shows, the 9PM Family Fireworks and the Midnight Fireworks Displays plus The Inspire Moment at 10.40 pm. We also understand that the Year will feature at the Lord Mayor's Picnic during the day. 

In Adelaide, the South Australian Museum is currently hosting Iridescence, a two-month-long exhibition showcasing butterfly wings, sea shells, minerals, fossils, animals and cultural representations of shimmering and rainbow-like objects.

When the sun sets on Canberra in late February/early March, Enlighten 2015 will breathe light, colour and movement into the city. During the festival a giant kaleidoscope cubby will be created in Old Parliament House, fleets of illuminated boats will set sail at sundown from Lake Burley Griffin and interactive circles of light will be projected into the sky. 

Each year, The Light in Winter festival celebrates art, music and performance in Melbourne’s Fed Square. In 2015, the festival will focus on the link between fire and the sun with a program of entertainment by the campfire every night at dusk. Lasers, solar power and star-gazing are some of the themes to be highlighted during the festival. Robyn Archer, the Festival’s artistic director, has given us a preview

Adventures with lasers and the magic of quantum light. Questacon and the ANU are teaming up to develop a series of public lectures, as well as professional training for teachers in 2015 on the theme of lasers.  The details of these programs are still being nutted out, so stay tuned for more in the new year.

Make sure you keep up to date on events in your state with the Australian Year of Light events calendar


MQ Photonics event – light the world 

What does light mean to you? And what part of its story do you want to share?

On 17 November, Macquarie University held their first event, ‘Light the World’ featuring the Nobel Prize winning blue LED technology. Michael Withford launched the event by reflecting on the millions of children worldwide who can’t study at night because they lack a cheap, efficient light source.

LEDs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and have the potential to drastically reduce global energy consumption because domestic lighting currently consumes one quarter of the world’s electricity budget. Unlike incandescent bulbs, where most of the electricity is converted to heat, LEDs convert electricity directly into light. And, this technology is constantly being improved.

The Forum also heard about the next generation in semiconductor technology that will further revolutionise solar cell and LED efficiency.

MQ Photonics at Macquarie University is planning lots of exciting, diverse, hands-on events for the Year. 


Calling all light exhibitionists

Developing a light based exhibition for the year of light?

The International Commission of Optics wants to hear from you if you’re developing an exhibition for the Year of Light. They’re keen to explore the idea of touring exhibitions around the world, once the Year has concluded. In particular, they’re interested in projects that illustrate how light can be used to benefit the developing world.

If you have an idea for an exhibit please email the details to Deb Kane


New phone app can counts stars—citizen science research project

How many stars you can see in your neighbourhood?

Dark skies are a luxury to people living in the city. Globe at Night is a citizen science research project looking at ‘loss of the night’.

The project is looking at how cities are effected by the loss of ‘darkness’ in our night sky—and how this affects our health, society, and the environment.

In order to measure how skyglow is changing, they’ve developed an app for smartphones, which allows citizen scientists to count the number of visible stars in the night sky. 

Download the app  


Resources for teaching and outreach—from lasers to rainbows

There’s some great content about light and its uses on the International Year of Light website. you know how many of our daily activities involve lasers? From scanning items at the supermarket, to listening to CDs, from 3D printing to medical devices—learn more about how lasers were invented, and how they differ to regular light.

The world’s Synchrotrons and Free Electron Lasers generate intense beams of light to probe the natural world. Find out how these machines work, and what they’ve discovered.

Often our first experience of light is in the natural world, from sunsets to rainbows, and the remarkable ranges of colours in plants and animals. Learn about light in nature.

Artists have used light for centuries to create light and shade and illustrate mood.  Modern technologies are now making new forms of art possible at the scale of buildings and architecture, and with amazing results. See how light and culture are colliding.

Light is the foundation of life, and now photonic devices are also improving our lives through medicine. Learn more about how light improves our lives.

More at



The International Year of Light 2015 in Australia is supported by the Australian Optical Society, the Australian Institute of PhysicsCUDOS and the Astronomical Society of Australia.

If you’d like to know more about sponsoring the Year in Australia, email Read on December sponsorship updates. 

CUDOS Sponsor the Year

CUDOS, Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence is  supporting the International Year of Light 2015 directly as a Gold Associate Sponsor of the international activities of the year planned by UNESCO and the Year of Light community.

CUDOS is contributing to optics outreach on a global scale by working on the redesign of the international educational resource OSA Discovery Kit. CUDOS has taken this kit and adapted it to target specific NSW HSC learning outcomes.

CUDOS also plans to participate in the portfolio of activities planned by the International Year of Light program in Australia

Participate in the IYL celebrations and will pay an important leadership role in the Australian context in promoting the important and vital role of photonics and optics in the modern world and the future opportunities offered by CUDOS research.”

At the local level, CUDOS plans to deliver lectures, public talks, workshops and other community based events. 

Astronomical Society of Australia come on board

The Astronomical Society of Australia has now added its support to the Year of Light in Australia. They’ve made a $5,000 contribution to the Year, and will also assist the Australian Institute of Physics in bringing a guest speaker to each state throughout the year. 

The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) was formed in 1966 as the organisation of professional astronomers in Australia. Membership of the ASA is open to anyone contributing to the advancement of Australian astronomy or a closely related field. 

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Upcoming Events


Iridescence—the beauty of light in nature

SA Museum - Adelaide, 12 December 2014 to 15 March 2015
Drawn from the vast multidisciplinary collections of the South Australian Museum, Iridescence is an immersive experience that highlights the special qualities and beauty of iridescent materials and effects.

Mr Light: James Turrell comes to Canberra

Canberra, 13 December 2014 to 8 June 2015
James Turrell has spent his career making art from light—and using it to make his audience ‘feel’. This summer the National Gallery in Canberra is hosting James Turrell: A retrospective, showcasing the major works from James’s career.

Inspire— this Sydney NYE 

Sydney, 31 December 2014 to 1 January 2015
The International Year of Light will kick-off in Australia with the Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks, produced by the City of Sydney. To find out more about Australia’s premier light show event and celebration of the nation. 

Enlighten 2015—see Canberra in a different light 

Canberra, 27 February to 7 March 2015
Enlighten 2015 will mark the International Year of Light with a unique celebration of culture, creativity and cuisine throughout Canberra. Now in its fifth year, Enlighten will transform the national capital’s Parliamentary Triangle into a vibrant and bold performance precinct featuring free entertainment.

The Light in Winter – Melbourne’s own celebration

Federation Square - Melbourne, 1 June to 21 June 2015
With an illuminating itinerary of events, The Light in Winter festival will again celebrate importance and power of light in 2015. Next year’s festival will incorporate themes from the International Year of Light in Australia and will include opportunities for festival-goers to learn more about the science of light.

National Science Week

Australia-wide, 15 August 24 August 2015
Making waves – the science of light, will be the schools theme for National Science Week in 2015. Plus, there will plenty of science, and light-based activities happening around the country. 


Thanks to our sponsors

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