Touring the five great Australian observatories

Astronomy | 3 January 2020

If you plan a trip to the Land Down Under, be sure to check out these great astronomical sites.

By Dan Falk

LAST YEAR, I had the privilege of undertaking a 10-day driving tour of southeastern Australia with my traveling companions, Wilson da Silva and Carolina Camilo. We traced out a loop of some 950 miles (1,500 kilometers), beginning and ending in Sydney — a route that took in five leading observatories in New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory.

An added draw, of course, was the night sky. I’ll never forget the view of the southern sky that I had from some of these sites, with velvety-black darkness, faint stars visible down to the horizon, and hardly a trace of light pollution.

First, a tip: If you tour the Australian countryside in November, as I did, be prepared for the flies — endless swarms of relentlessly buzzing flies like you’ve never seen, especially in the evenings. With that one caveat out of the way, I turn to the good news: Australia is an incredible country full of extraordinary scenery and numerous sites to thrill any astronomy enthusiast, including world-class optical and radio telescopes — and kangaroos to boot!

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