There is something truly humbling about looking out from Earth into space. On a clear, dark night, watching the stars with the naked eye can be breathtaking; but it's when you're equipped with a telescope, a star chart or a more experienced guide that stargazing becomes an obsession. Here are the best spots to get started on your astronomical quest.
Melbourne's top stargazing spots
The historic Old Melbourne Observatory is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, and the Lunar Tours programme offers a glance at the movements of moons, while The Parade of Planets introduces budding new astronomers to their new best friend, Jupiter, who is well placed to be seen throughout summer. Tours run from 9-10pm with experienced guides from the Astronomical Society of Victoria (ASV), loveable and enthusiastic devotees to the universe who are eager to share their knowledge. Booking essential on 03 9252 2429.
Where: Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Ave, South Yarra
When: Mondays, 8-9.30pm
How much: $14-$18. Family tickets (two adults, three children) $50
If what you want is to just sit back and take in as much of the night sky as possible, then the Dandenong Lookout is where you want to be. Located on the uppermost reach of the Dandenong Ranges, the lookout displays all of Melbourne below and the night sky above, stretching over you like a big twinkly umbrella. During the day the coast is visible all the way to Mornington Peninsula, making it the perfect place to watch the sun go down and keep an eye out for the first curious planets and stars come out.
Where: 26 Observatory Rd, Mount Dandenong
When: Mon-Fri 9am-10pm; Sat-Sun 8am-10pm
How much: $5 per car
Australia's first digital planetarium is at Scienceworks in Spotswood. The theatre seats 160 and produces shows for all ages, seven days a week. For summer, the planetarium is there to show you the planet of the season, Jupiter, the brightest star in the summer sky, the world of black holes, the problematic nature of Pluto, and the night sky of the Boorong people.
Where: Scienceworks, 2 Booker St, Spotswood
When: Daily 10am-4.30pm (with some evening talks)
How much: $14.50-$16
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be an experienced astronomer to join the ranks of an astronomical society – you don’t even have to own your own telescope. For example, the Astronomical Society of Melbourne welcomes new members to come along to one of their meetings, where they aim to teach and train newcomers in the art of looking the sky. They have bi-monthly meetings for ‘shallow’ skies (the sky observed from within Melbourne) or monthly meetings for ‘dark’ skies (skies observed out at the society’s viewing platform in Gippsland, where less light pollution means more visible stars).
Where: Search on Meet Up