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 Victoria, and the Starry Southern Skies program offers a glance at the movements of the moon, the stars and distant planets. These night time astronomical tours see the roof of the Melbourne Observatory rotate and open up to the Australian night sky. Tours run from 8-9.30pm 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: Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Birdwood Ave, South Yarra
When: Mondays, 8-9.30pm (9-10pm during daylight savings months)
How much: $20-$24. Family of four tickets $70.
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 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-10pm
How much: $6 per car or $10 for a minibus or coach
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: $0-$6 (on top of general entry fee)
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be experienced astronomer to join the ranks of an astronomical society – you don’t even have to own your own telescope. Plenty of astronomical societies (including the aforementioned Astronomical Society of Victoria) welcome new members to come along to their meetings. Their aim is to teach and train newcomers in the art of looking at the sky by sharing their knowledge and understanding of the phenomena present in the universe.
Where: Search on Meet Up