The Best Place on Earth for Stargazing

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Flickr Image by Jon Connell

The magnificent night sky above our heads each night may well be West Australia’s most incredible natural asset. Compared to the northern hemisphere, the southern sky has one of the best views of the Milky Way as well as exclusive views of the stunning Magellanic Clouds, the Jewel Box cluster of stars and the Southern Cross – which can’t be seen in Europe of America.

There’s something about stargazing that instills fascination with our world and the galaxies beyond. Looking at the stars always gives rise to pondering life’s bigger questions about our existence.The night sky is clustered with incredible objects in our universe; planets, moons, shooting stars, comets and galaxy clusters that most of us know little about, let alone are able to identify.

The World’s First Astronomers

Perhaps not coincidentally, Australian Aborigines are credited with being the world’s first astronomers. Many Aboriginal Cultures have their own dreamtime stories to explain the heavenly bodies in the sky. These are filled with wonderful stories about celestial events, the Milky Way and the major constellations. Many Aboriginal constellations are constructed by looking for the spaces between stars, rather than the stars themselves.

Aboriginal people also used the sky as a calendar, using the stars to mark the seasons and the availability of food. For the Pitjantajatjara People in the Central Desert, the beginning of winter was associated with the rise of Pleiades in the dawn sky. For the Boorong people, seeing Lyra in the sky meant that the Mallee Fowl is starting to nest.

Top 10 Naked-Eye Stargazing Tips from a Pro

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Carol Redford aka the Galaxy Girl and founder of Stargazers Club WA says, “our place on Earth is home to some of the darkest night skies in the world and is the envy of astronomers and stargazers in Europe, America and Asia. In some cities and countries of the world, it’s impossible to see one star, let alone the millions that we can see from here.”

Galaxy Girl has these tips for Naked Eye Stargazing in West Australia.

  1. Find the darkest place you can. Stargazing is best under the darkest night sky you can find. White light blocks starlight from view.
  2. Travel away from city lights if possible. If you can’t, turn out as many lights as possible including TV’s and computer screens.
  3. Find the biggest sky you can. Trees and buildings block the view, so find somewhere you can see from horizon to horizon. Open spaces, hilltops and the beach are great places.
  4. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for 5-10 minutes. As your eyes become used to the darkness, you will start to see better. This is your night-time vision! If you need light, use a piece of red cellophane to cover a torch. Red light doesn’t affect your night time vision.
  5. Find a comfy place to lie back. That way you won’t get a stiff neck from looking up while standing!
  6. Watch for moving things in the night sky. Meteors (shooting stars) look like bright, fast streaks of light. Satellites (like the International Space Station) look like a star that moves slowly and steadily across the night sky. Aeroplanes have flashing green and red lights.
  7. See if you can make pictures out of the stars. People have been doing this for thousands of years. There are 88 named constellations. Do you know any of them?
  8. See if you can see different coloured stars. Most look white in colour but others may appear yellow, orange or red.
  9. Use a pair of binoculars if you can and take a closer look. What might look like faint milky white smudges of light turn out to be countless numbers of stars!
  10. Cool drinks in summer and hot chocolate in winter are a must! Share with friends and family.

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Out of this World Astronomy Events for 2015

One of the best things about observing the night sky is that it is in constant change and there are always new and interesting things to get excited about. Here are some of the most notable celestial events for 2015.

April 4 – Total Lunar Eclipse

May 22 – This is the best time to see and photograph Saturn and its moons as it will be at its closest approach to earth.

July 1 – Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets we see from Earth, will appear very close to each other in the evening sky.

August 13-14 – Perseids Meteor Shower. This is one of the best meteor showers to observe and produces up to 60 meteors per hour. This shower will be in the constellation Perseus and you can find it by looking northeast after midnight.

October 12 – Uranus will be at its closest approach to earth meaning that this is the best time to view the seventh planet from the sun. Unfortunately, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

December 13-14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. Considered one of the best meteor showers in the heavens, the Geminids Shower can produce up to 120 meteors per hour and occurs in the constellation of Gemini.

Want to know more?

If you’re interested in knowing more about the night sky than where to find Orion and the Southern Cross you may be interested in joining Galaxy Girl at the  Stargazers Club WA.

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Members receive fortnightly stargazing forecasts that introduce you to stargazing in Western Australia and astronomy for beginners. Members also have access to Special Club stargazing events, news and events happening in Perth and regional WA and a free astronomy gift pack.

The Perth Observatory located in Bickley also runs a range of excellent star viewing tours, click here for the details.

Or head to Gingin Observatory to learn more about space and join an evening stargazing tour or a daytime solar viewing tour. Click here for the details.

WA Explorer is The Outdoor Guide to WA. Subscribe to the newsletter for travel inspiration to your inbox. 

7 Comments

  1. […] The Best Place on Earth for Stargazing […]

  2. […] The Best Place on Earth for Stargazing […]

  3. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi Nina
    I have just found your blog! Found it very interesting and yes Western Australia certainly is a fabulous place for viewing the stars especially at Perth Observatory. I am a volunteer there and thank you for the advertising however may I ask you to correct one thing please? The Observatory is located in Bickley not Bicton.
    I also liked your Kings Park and Fremantle page and will be able to show my family much more there when they visit this year. Thank you

    • Nina B says:

      Hi Mary, thanks so much for visiting the blog and for spotting my mistake. For some reason, I always get those two mixed up! The Perth Observatory is a fantastic place to visit and something everyone should do at least once. I had a great visit there a few years ago and learnt so much about stargazing and the universe around us.

  4. Rena Tan says:

    How can i book a place for stargazing at Perth Observatory this Oct?

    • WA Explorer says:

      You can book tours on the Perth Observatory website. I recommend not booking too far in advance as you want to make sure that you have a clear night with no clouds for the best stargazing opportunities. If you’re visiting Perth there’s also a great stargazing tour to the Pinnacle Desert that comes highly recommended.

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