Stargazing is an activity that many people remember from childhood, on a clear night, looking up at the stars and attempting to identify the patterns. One of the best things about gazing at the stars is there is no need for high-powered equipment and it is something that is best enjoyed outdoors. For casual gazing, all that is required is a clear view of the night sky, at the top of a hill or perched upon a sand dune listening to the ocean crashing to the shore.
Having a comfortable lounge or camping chair will also make it easier to star gaze and if you don’t have a telescope, a set of binoculars will let you get a little closer. Settling into a position that allows you to view the night’s sky without straining your neck will make the experience all the more enjoyable. It he surface is soft enough, a pillow and rug might do the trick!
Stargazing was hugely influential in some of the earth’s great cyclization’s, ancient cultures left behind astronomical artefacts such as the Egyptian shrines and Stonehenge, and early civilizations such as Australia’s Aboriginals, Greeks, Chinese and Indians performed methodical observations of the night sky.
Across Australia are many different rich and vibrant Aboriginal cultures, each with its own astronomy. Many have stories of a female Sun who warmed the land, and a male Moon who was once a young slim man (the curved Moon), but grew fat and lazy (the full Moon). However he then broke the law, and was attacked by his people, resulting in his death (the new Moon). After remaining dead for 3 days, he rose again to repeat the cycle, and continues doing so 'til this day. Some Aboriginal people use the sky as a calendar to tell them when it's time to move to a new place and a new food supply.
Amateur astronomers have contributed to many important astronomical discoveries, and astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can still play an active role, especially in the discovery and observation of transient phenomena.
Some of the constellations that you’ve probably heard of already:
THE SOUTHERN CROSS
The Southern Cross and two pointer stars are used to find south in the southern hemisphere and this constellation can be found on the Australian National Flag.
LIBRA - THE SCALES
Libra is the only one of the classical zodiac constellations that does not depict a human or animal.
ORION - THE HUNTER
Orion, sometimes subtitled The Hunter, is a prominent constellation and visible throughout the world.
The Seven Sisters story is part of an Aboriginal song-line that traverses the breadth of the continent, from the east to west coast of Australia. In Central Australia they say the seven beautiful women were seen by the hunter Wati Nehru.
FYI – a shooting star is a piece of rock or dust seen burning up as it enters the earth's atmosphere.
Stargazing is one of life’s simple pleasures, starring into the nights sky allows you to observe the beauty of the universe. It’s a gift from nature that can often put things into to perspective, as we realise that we are only one small part of this great existence, with some many places unexplored and with such great vastness, it offers you an opportunity to let you imagination run wild as to what else exists beyond the stars!
A great way to get a start is the National Library of Australia's 'Australian Backyard Astronomy' website, where you can find maps and information.