Astronomy

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stargazing
The NSW Central Coast astronomers camping at Bretti Reserve prepare their campsite for the night’s star-gazing

Glen Davis, an astronomy lover, offers grey nomads a guide to the night sky

Australia is blessed with a wonderful night sky vista of the Milky Way, including a variety of Nebulas, star clusters, and Deep Space Objects (DSOs).

Grey Nomads are lucky enough to often find themselves in locations that can give them access to all these wonders of the night sky … but they don’t always know how to find out what they are looking at. Happily, most of us already have the basic equipment we need to develop an understanding of the night sky … a Smartphone (Android or IOS), or Tablet, provide an excellent platform for Planetarium apps, some of which are available for free or through Google Store.

Fully featured apps like Sky Safari, provide a wealth of information about the night sky, including detailed sky maps of all the constellations, star names, deep space object locations, and astrophotographs. Travellers just need to set up their campchairs with a good view of the night sky, turn off their camp LED lights so their eyes adapt to the dark sky, and then use their devices to explore the sky. Set up the app menu to highlight the things you are interested in, be it constellation diagrams and information, big bright nebulas like Eta Carinae, the Lagoon Nebula, and others.

Add a pair of good binoculars for close up viewing and you have everything you need! Night sky star gazing is an enjoyable group activity as well, and spotting meterorites is a great little competition. Add some nibblies, and your favourite beverage, and you have a Star Party! Just remember that the trend to bright white LED lights on caravans, campers, motorhomes, etc can ruin your night vision in an instant … and it can take at least 20 minutes for your eyes to re-adapt to the dark.

There is nothing more frustrating that someone shining a bright LED torch around a dark site. Red LED headlights are great for preserving night vision, and most astronomers at dark sites would be using those.

Grey nomads may run across individuals or groups of astronomers in their travels, with telescopes, big mounts, and other equipment set up at some dark site free camp reserves around the country. We are usually happy to share our knowledge with grey nomads and other site users, so don’t be afraid to say ‘hello’.

Generally, astronomers will set up well away from others using a location in an effort to be away from light sources. It is probably good manners to control your exterior lighting so that it not pointed towards the direction of camping astronomers … or your own star party gathering!

  • Are you a star gazer? Email here to share your experiences
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