Stunning night skies draw stargazers to Outback

Published: June 6, 2017
Outback stars draw grey nomads

The magnificence of Australia’s incredible night skies is attracting increasing recognition as tourism authorities seek to draw more visitors to the Outback.

Few grey nomads who have sat in their campchairs in the bush and stared skywards after dark will be surprised to learn that they are indeed looking at something very, very special.

Research shows that some 80% of the world’s population now lives beneath light-polluted skies.

Last year, Warrumbungle National Park in central west New South Wales was declared Australia’s first Dark Sky Park. There are just 37 declared parks around the world, including 15 in Canada, two in America, six in Europe, and one in Asia.

Now, there are moves to have an area about 100 kilometres east of Adelaide also become declared a Dark Sky Reserve, giving it protection from future light pollution.

Mid Murray Landcare acting chairman, Chris Tugwell, told the Australian newspaper that light ­meters are going to be used to measure the darkness of the Murray River region as an application is made to the US-based International Dark Sky ­Association for reserve status.

Astronomers measure darkness on a scale of zero to 22, the higher number representing total darkness where the Milky Way galaxy can be seen in rich detail.

Mr Tugwell told the Australian that earlier light readings taken at the region’s Yookamurra Sanctuary showed a reading of 21.97 — darker than the 35 reserves named throughout the world as dark sky reserves,

“You almost think it casts a shadow, the Milky Way’s so bright,’’ he said of the night skies above his riverside shack at Swan Reach, less than two hours’ drive from Adelaide. “The Magellanic Clouds are quite striking in the night sky out there … it’s close to the city so … that’s our special thing. You can go out to Arkaroola (in the South Australian outback), we’re not saying we’ve got the best, but we’ve got the best access.’’

·       Is staring at the night sky one of your favourite Outback pastimes? Where have you been most stunned by the beauty and clarity of the stars above? Comment below.

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5 years ago

I remember being in the Kimberleys quite a few years ago with the kids. We were walking back to our camp when I stopped and said to the family to look up. There were quite a few “oohs” and “ahhs”.


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