Australia Astronomy in Sydney and Cairns

When traveling in Australia, I had the opportunity and was fortunate enough to go to the Sydney Observatory and see the Milky Way in Cairns


Night Sky Secrets

The first experience stargazing in Australia was an opportunity stumbled upon at the right place, and right time. Normally, I do research into opportunities, but having some free time in Cairns, I came across the Night Sky Secrets store in the Cairns Esplanade. The store could not be better placed as it is easily recognizable and the Asked if they had an opportunity to view the night sky. Called Night Sky Secrets tour. Drove and explained about the history of the area and Cairns. Then when got dark, showed the nights sky, including the Aboriginal stories of the night sky. Most notably, one can distinctively see what is called an emu. This emu starts in the southern tip of the Milky Way and continues into the middle of the Milky Way. I was lucky to be able to attend a tour as the tours only run a few days before and a after the new moon. As part of the price, Ian provides dinner and information about the Cairns area if driving with him.

Having driven 1 hour outside of Cairns, we went to the Arthenon Tablelands for viewing and dinner. During the few hour trip, the weather was beautiful, and Ian was an even better tourguide. The others on the tour were really nice. I cannot speak highly enough about Night Sky Secrets, as it was an amazing experience.


Wiruna (ASNSW)

Before exploring Sydney, I went with the The Astronomical Society of NSW (ASNSW) to their observing site in Wiruna, which is 3.5 hours outside of Sydney without traffic. The site is owned by the astronomical society and the location where the club hosts the ASNSW star party every May. I scheduled to go during the new moon in June, which meant that the Milky Way was overhead and the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds were visible with the naked eye. As the land was owned by the club, members were able to store their gear on the site in sheds, which contained a mix of motorized and manually controlled scopes. These scopes were all greater than 15 inches in diameter, and varied in design, but were kept on site as there was no concern of gear going missing. The facilities were really nice, as there was camping areas for cars, separate buildings for bunks, a kitchen with a fireplace, and restrooms with showers. I contacted the club and asked to come out, which they happily took me up on.

I went in the winter so the weather was cold, around 32 degrees Farenheight, with highs in the mid 50s. The weather was great the first night, being totally clear and being able to see detail in the Milky Way with the naked eye throughout the night. Trees did prevent full 360 degree view of the sky, but the lost area was minimal. To get access, one has to contact the club during new moons to get access, and pay a small fee to use it, which is $7 Australian per night. I would recommend contacting the club and going with a member and bringing ones own gear, and bring ones own food. The club has a large hand made Dobsonian telescope, which was used to view the Trantula Nebula, Eta Carena, and a few other galaxies that were unavailable to the Northern observer.

Photo shows The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds plus the Southern Cross

Sydney Observatory

Located in the center of Sydney, Australia, the Sydney Observatory is a fully functional observatory and museum. The cost is free to tour the museum and $10 Australian dollars, which is at the time of writing, is $7.66 in US Dollars. Tours allow for visitors to see a movie and view the sun through a solar telescope, which has a solar filter. The observatory also does events at night allowing the public to view the skies.

The museum has multiple floors Weather and astronomy stuff. Super cool. Had a transmitter that was used to receive the moon landings, telescopes used to map the southern sky, and lots of information about the transit of Venus in 1769 that Captain James Cook saw from Tahiti. That transit is crucial to the understanding of Venus as well as how Captain Cook came to Australia. After going to see the transit, Captain Cook was told to go explore new land and claim for the British Empire. We have attached some pictures and suggest visiting as it is really cool. Had some great displays about the differences in telescopes and had some older scopes on display. These historical items were used to help mariners find their way along the seas.

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