Outback Stargazing: A Guide To The Red Centre Night Sky

Desert Oaks

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream” – Vincent Van Gogh

The stars have inspired and fascinated mankind for generations. Throughout the ages we have gazed up into the glittering canopy above us and tried to make sense of what we see. We’ve created myths and legends about the stars, named the constellations and given them stories and sung countless songs about them.

These days the night sky in all its glory is not a common sight. Most of us spend the evenings gazing at the glow of the television rather than looking up to the heavens. However, the stars can still shine through to our eyes when we venture somewhere remote, dark and vast – such as Australia’s Outback.

Why The Outback Is A Dream Destination For Star-Gazing

Thanks to the remoteness of the Red Centre in Australia and the lack of light pollution, it’s possible to see a dazzling range of stars. There are no streetlights, no neon signs, very few cars and very few buildings. Plus, since it is in the Southern Hemisphere it offers one of the best views of the Milky Way in the world.

This space spectacle is a dusty white trail sweeping across the sky – the stars clustered so close together that they merge in a glowing blur. The Milky Way often radiates with so much power that it is visible even when the moon is shining. The moon setting can sometimes look like a sun setting, because it has small clouds behind it that create a hazy glow.

A half moon in the pitch black night sky
Photo Credit: Stocksnap

When the moon disappears, the milky way changes colour. You can see photos of this, but nothing prepares you for the experience of seeing this inspiring natural wonder with your own eyes.

You’ll also see the Jewel Box cluster, the Magellanic Clouds and the Southern Cross – which cannot be seen from Europe or North America. It’s amazing to consider the fact that these stars are always there, but they are not often seen from the city as the night sky is washed from our vision by the glare of billboards and street lights.

When you look up at the night sky, you are looking back into the past. Since light has to travel such vast distances to reach our eyes, many of the stars that we see shining down on us today may have died millions of years ago. The galaxies we see now are as they were billions of years ago.

Photo Credit: Stocksnap

The stars meant a lot to the Aboriginal People of the Outback – they used them for navigation and to predict the upcoming seasons. In fact, read this fascinating article to find out how the country roads in Australia’s Outback were originally mapped out by Aboriginal people thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.

Tips For Enjoying The Night Sky In The Red Centre

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  • Bring along a printed chart of the Australian sky, so that you can try looking for the constellations and matching up the names with what you see above you.
  • You don’t have to buy an expensive telescope – try looking at the sky with binoculars and seeing the clusters of stars a bit closer.
  • Use a red flashlight to find your way around, rather than a blue or white light. This will save your eyes from adjusting to the bright light, which will hinder your ability to see stars.
  • Check out Google Sky Maps. It’s like Google Maps, but for space. You can use it to figure out what you are looking at and learn more about the constellations above you.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

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