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Stargazing Fridays on Mount Stromlo.

By Charlotte - 6 June 2011 9

Public astronomical viewing nights are being held on the second Friday of each month at the Scope Café on Mount Stromlo in Weston Creek.

Starting on 10 June, Canberrans can view the universe through telescopes on “Observing Night”, thanks to the Canberra Astronomical Society.

The nights will continue until November with the café staying open late to accommodate stargazers.

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9 Responses to
Stargazing Fridays on Mount Stromlo.
Gungahlin Al 7:16 am 08 Jun 11

On a recent trip home to Queensland, we pulled up on the side of the road at the top of the range north of Armidale. I got the kids out and we just stood looking out into the bush to the west for a little while and they kept asking what were we doing. After about 5 minutes, I said now turn around and look up – straight at the Milky Way. They were astounded.

If you think you can’t afford a scope, have a look at this one:
http://www.ozscopes.com.au/dobsonian-telescope-saxon-collapsible-8-inch.html
Or if you have a bit more, this would give awesome views:
http://www.ozscopes.com.au/skywatcher-black-diamond-16-collapsible-dobsonian-telescope.html

They are entirely manual, but you can get great software for your iphone now – check out Star Walk or Pocket Universe.

smiling politely 12:44 pm 07 Jun 11

“Seriously, most people don’t reliase what they’re missing. Spending nights out in the middle of nowhere is mind blowing for most non-astronomy people once you get them to look up.”

+1 gazillion. I remember my first road trip through western NSW at age 19, pulling over on the road to Narrabri for a quiet smoke and watching the stars for a little while. Some good-ish photos over at Crikey’s Northern Myth blog were posted yesterday.

deye 12:43 pm 07 Jun 11

To demonstrate the light pollution, this photo was taken up in Namadgi and the light behind her is Canberra about 30-40 km away http://www.flickr.com/photos/d-eye/5401121738/

Though it’s not too bad up that way as long as you aren’t looking in the direction of Canberra. http://www.flickr.com/photos/d-eye/5400519961/ (The exposure wasn’t long enough to get the Milky Way really nice and it was still too close to dusk)

Disinformation 12:17 pm 07 Jun 11

Skidbladnir said :

Disinfo:
Spending nights out in the middle of nowhere is mind blowing for most non-astronomy people once you get them to look up.

Ah, I didn’t mention that 2000 was the start of looking up for me. I can’t justify my own telescope, but I have a friend with a home observatory and I’ve spent a few nights camping by rivers even less than an hour away from Canberra that have spectacular skies. Your light pollution links show why. I’ve never seen that representation before, but it does show why the Yanks are protective of their few dark spots. Looks like the presenter at Chaco was a bit off when he claimed it was the second darkest too, according the the US map. With no TV and not much to do after dark, it’s not surprising that the ancients knew the stars so well.

Skidbladnir 10:52 am 07 Jun 11

Disinfo:

Light pollution map of Australia vs Continental United States.
Seriously, most people don’t reliase what they’re missing.
Spending nights out in the middle of nowhere is mind blowing for most non-astronomy people once you get them to look up.

Disinformation 10:15 am 07 Jun 11

In 2000, I happened to be camped in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The rangers in their Smokey Bear hats came through the camp site to inform us that there was an astronomical presentation at the open air theater after which, we’d have a chance to look through some of the telescopes in the observatory that was staffed by volunteers. Chaco Canyon supposedly had the second darkest skies in the USA. I wasn’t expecting much, to tell the truth, but there was time to kill before going to sleep.

It was some of the most awesome and fascinating things I’ve ever seen with my own eyes and the Astronomers all told me that they dreamed of coming to Australia, where they could see the really good stuff!

Gungahlin Al 5:30 pm 06 Jun 11

beh1972 said :

We went to take my 9 year son up there for a birthday treat in May. The kids were excited to be going out and doing some star gazing and the chance to see a planet.

To be safe I checked the web site before we left Ngunnawal – which clearly said it was open.

After a 25-30 minute drive we were stopped by a closed boom gate at the top of the mountain with a printed page stuck on it, saying closed for a private function.

Disappointed we went home and checked the web site again, and realised it hadn’t been updated in months.

I had the same thing happen on what CAS call a “Tardis Night”. But after showing the security guy from the cottage near the gate the CAS website on my phone he let me in and they were indeed up there at the Tardis – which is a little shed way up the end with a nice scope inside. The roof slides off and the walls help block a lot of the Canberra light pollution (which is totally crap). So the trick is to not be late on a Tardis night.

On the public viewing night the gate should be open. The set up between the cafe and the remaining but still burnt out big dome. (It is tragic to see in daylight the massive charred carcass of that scope still inside the building after all these years.)

The last one my boy and I went to we took our 2 scopes up too hoping we’d get a chance to try some of the other guys’ eyepieces and get some tips (we are fairly new to it all). There was a massive crowd there and before we knew it and before I could even align the computerised scope, we had two queues of people at the scopes and I was run ragged keeping them aligned on some easy objects like the Orion Nebula and Betelguese.

Some of the guys have basic but huge self-made dobsonian scopes that are brilliant for looking at things like the Tarantula Nebula, Jewel Box and some of the nearer galaxies. It was interesting to see Saturn through a 20″ dob looking not much better than through our 8″ dob – it moves too quickly for the big manual scopes unless they use wide field eyepieces.

I prefer to go to a dead end road up in Wamboin to try get away from the light pollution, as long as the wind is calm. But even out there the south-western sky is totally washed out by Canberra light. No wonder ANU abandoned Stromlo for viewing. Beh1972 if you drop me a line through planning at gcc.asn.au I could let you know when we are going out there again. There’s a cresent moon in the west in the early evening, so I’d guess viewing will be crap after this weekend. Unless you’d like to check out the moon – that’s easy – back yard. Saturn too.

beh1972 4:53 pm 06 Jun 11

We went to take my 9 year son up there for a birthday treat in May. The kids were excited to be going out and doing some star gazing and the chance to see a planet.

To be safe I checked the web site before we left Ngunnawal – which clearly said it was open.

After a 25-30 minute drive we were stopped by a closed boom gate at the top of the mountain with a printed page stuck on it, saying closed for a private function.

Disappointed we went home and checked the web site again, and realised it hadn’t been updated in months.

futto 3:59 pm 06 Jun 11

How fortuitous that you post this. I was on the CAS website last week looking to see if these nights were still being held. I saw that the webpage noted “Latest update to the CAS web site was 141 days ago.” and I assumed that things must be dormant for winter.

I will be there this month if the weather is right and I can find a babysitter.

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