Since the beginning of time, the mystery, beauty and sheer vastness of the night sky has fascinated and intrigued us. Ancient civilisations worshipped the night skies, building monuments and offering sacrifices to the stars and deities above. It is believed that the Egyptians “read” the constellations of the stars and created astrology, with ancient Rome, India, China and the Islamic world following suit with their own interpretations.
From Ptolemy and Galileo to Stephen Hawking and Edwin Hubble, famous philosophers, academics, scientists and astronomers have paved the way with their astronomical findings and theories, evolving and shaping our understanding of the universe and our place in it. Today, we still use the night sky for agriculture, navigation, star signs and psychology, religion, and astrotourism.
Our advances in research and technology have certainly come a long way since those early days of stargazing, getting us closer to unlocking the secrets the night sky holds. But, while we may never get all the answers, our insatiable curiosity and love affair with the night sky will continue to keep us spellbound for many more generations to come.
Adventurous and educational, astrotourism is the latest big trend in travel, and New South Wales is leading the way in Australia, with the country’s first Dark Sky Park recently announced. Read on for our top five stargazing experiences in NSW for out-of-this-world views—literally.
After a day of checking out the animals at the famous Taronga Western Plains Zoo, head to Dubbo Observatory and view the night sky. With up to five powerful telescopes, you’ll be able to experience stunning visuals of the stars, planets and nebulae during a 90-minute show while an audiovisual display in the theatre shows live images of the moon and planets and explains what is being seen. You can also try your hand at astrophotography and play a round of astro mini-golf.
Outback Astronomy in Broken Hill
Ideal for beginner stargazers, this enchanting 60-minute Outback Astronomy Sky Show in the vast desert plains of the NSW outback will introduce you to famous stars, constellations, nebulae and many more mystical night sky wonders. Sit back in a reclined chair and experience the starry sky through the naked eye and with binoculars while a knowledgeable guide takes you on a virtual cruise across the Milky Way. Telescope viewings as part of 90-minute Sky Shows are also available on selected evenings.
Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park
The exceptional quality of Warrumbungle National Park’s crystal-clear starry nights and nocturnal environment has earned it the certification of Australia’s first official Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. Its world-class optical astronomy research facility at nearby Sliding Spring Observatory is home to several world-leading telescopes and has long attracted both professionals and amateur astronomers. Located in Coonabarabran, the area is also home to a range of Aboriginal and culturally significant sites.
Located just 15 minutes outside of Mudgee town centre in regional NSW, Mudgee Observatory has several telescopes and a variety of binoculars and runs conducted tours of the night sky. The theatre and flat-screen planetarium has several features on the night sky and the sun as well as programs on space missions. Mudgee is also renowned for its beautiful wines, fresh produce and vineyards and we don't think there could be anything better than ending a day of wine tasting with stargazing!
Linden Observatory Blue Mountains
Built by famous Australian telescope manufacturer Ken Beames in the 1940s, the NSW State Heritage-listed Linden Observatory celebrates his life and work. Today, the site is operated by passionate amateur astronomers and used as an astronomical education centre, featuring the historic 61-centimetre reflector built by Beames, his various workshops, observing fields and a sliding roof observatory. Group bookings and viewing nights are available upon request. While you’re in the area, check out the glowworms and learn about the local nocturnal life with Tread Lightly Eco Tours.