Scenes from the Skeens

Stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere

August 25, 2007 4:27 pm by Dan

So we’re having a lovely winter here in Queensland. Today’s temperature was about 25 Celsius, a nice breeze off the ocean and no humidity. It’s about as comfortable as weather gets in my opinion. But the one downside to our season is that the daylight hours are reduced. The sun goes down around 5:30 pm. So, with this combination of warm nights and dark evenings, I’ve taken up stargazing. The view of the sky from where we are is staggering. There are so many stars visible, and the Milky Way is so full and white it’s really something to behold. Getting oriented is a bit of a challenge initially. The southern hemisphere has an entirely different starscape than what I’m used to. No North Star, big dipper or any of the familiar formations. And Orion the hunter is standing on his head.
milky-way (a photo of the Milky Way as seen from Australia, with the Southern Cross showing clearly. Not sure what the silver line is – ignore that)
Here the predominant feature is the Southern Cross, a brilliant set of stars, including a red dwarf, that form the basis for the Australian flag. With a bit of help from some books and websites, I’ve started identifying the constellations. It’s easy to spot Centaurus, the centaur, and the scorpion, Scorpius, shines incredibly brightly at this time of year. I have no trouble identifying Lupus, the wolf, as well, and Sagittarius and a very faint Libra. Now that I’ve got those to help me orient the skies I should be able to spot more constellations fairly easy. With the help of binoculars I’ll also be looking at some nebulae and other interesting things in the night sky.

It’s very hard to describe, but to lay on the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore, and to look up into the heavens and see millions of stars, and the brilliant glow of the cosmic dust in the Milky Way is a pretty amazing experience.

No Responses to “Stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere”

Care to comment?