To see one of the most beautiful things in our world all you have to do is look up at night time – the night sky is an incredible thing, and it’s even better than usual right now! We’re in the middle of a five-planet season (meaning Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are all in the night sky at once) and this weekend we’ll see the longest lunar eclipse of the century. So don your nerd-hats and get ready to go stargazing in Australia.
If these ideal viewing conditions put you in the mood to check out the heavens, here are the best places to go stargazing in Australia.
Dubbo And Warrumbungle Observatories
You’ll always get a better view of the stars further from cities. Light and air pollution hugely reduce the view of the skies in major cities. That’s why the observatories near Dubbo – a short flight west of Sydney – are so perfect for viewing the skies.
The observatory in Dubbo runs evening tours for $25 per person or exclusive tours for up to six people for $80 per person for more time with the telescope. You can even do an Astrophotography Tour to take your own pics of the stars and planets.
Warrumbungle Observatory is even further out there – about two hours’ drive from Dubbo – but the view will be worth it. This area is now a designated “international dark sky park”, meaning the stargazing conditions are well respected, bringing astronomers from around the world. Tickets to night viewings are $25.
This observatory has served WA for over 120 years, and participated in several important astronomical discoveries, including co-discovering the ring system of Uranus (LOL, but really) and working with NASA. Head to the observatory at night for sky tours. You can also visit the region for abseiling tours, but you can’t see the stars while you do that.
Where: Perth Observatory, 337 Walnut Rd, Bickley, Western Australia
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
This wilderness sanctuary takes major benefit from a lack of light pollution, with the closest town (the very small Leigh Creek) is 130km away. Part of the wilderness sanctuary is a privately owned observatory from which you can check out the night sky.
The area is also known for its clear skies, so you’re more likely to have an unobstructed view of the sky. The only thing is that Arkaroola is a ways away from Adelaide – keep in mind that’s what makes it such an ideal location for stargazing in Australia.
Make a trip of it – with Arkaroola offering accommodation and adventure activities in the surrounding area, including hiking, tours and scenic flights.
Where: Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Arkaroola Rd, Arkaroola Village, South Australia
This is the oldest telescope still in use in Australia, and easily the most accessible of Australia’s top stargazing spots – just a short walk from the Sydney CBD. The observatory runs regular evening tours for $27, and also weekend day tours (with obviously no stargazing).
It’s located within a heritage-listed historical building, constructed in 1858, and also includes a planetarium for digital stargazing. Even better, Sydney Observatory also offers special sessions and courses, including astrophotography and and astronomy classes.
Where: Sydney Observatory, Observatory Hill, 1003 Upper Fort St, Millers Point, New South Wales
Charleville Cosmos Centre
This astronomy centre is one of the few places to go stargazing in Australia during the night and the day. The nighttime tours offer general ($28 per person) or personalised ($65) opportunities to see the solar system. During the day, take a sun-viewing tour ($15) look through a special telescope to check out the surface of the sun – our most important star. Astronomy tours are also offered during the day in the centre’s exhibits.
Where: Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory, Milky Way (off the Matilda Highway), Charleville, Queensland
(Lead image: Perth Observatory)