Whether you are an avid stargazer or an amateur astronomer, the night sky and all its secrets is amazing and mysterious so a tour with Night Sky Secrets is a great way to make better sense of the stars and its galaxies.
Of course the only way to get the full benefit of a dark sky is to head out of town.
Night Sky Secrets hold their stargazing tours on the edge of the outback near Mareeba.
They run them to coincide with special celestial events and usually three days after a full moon to three days after the new moon, so its easier to see nebulas, star formations and planets without the light from the moon.
What You Will See
The tour is run by Ian Maclean who has always been fascinated with astronomy. He says his very first telescope was a cheap, wobbly one but it didn’t deter him from his love of the night sky. Over the years he has upgraded telescopes and studied the stars, so it’s no wonder he is now sharing his knowledge and passion about astronomy.
On the tour he points out planets, star formations, right star clusters, The Pointers, the Southern Cross and nebulas (clouds of gas and dust that stars form from).
Ian also talks about the Milky Way but unfortunately you can’t normally see it from Cairns because of all the light pollution.
When we first arrived Venus looked like the first visible star in the sky, even though it’s a planet. But a few hours later we watched Venus slowly move as a result of the Earth continually rotating.
I have to admit that the planets were definitely the highlight for me, especially seeing the rings around Saturn when looking through the telescope.
Apparently the planets are always the ‘rockstars’ of any stargazing tour.
Looking through the telesscope really makes you aware that there are other galaxies out there and how close we are to the planets. Depending on the time of year you do the stargazing tour, different planets are in orbit so you won’t always see Saturn, instead you might see Jupiter and all it’s moons or possibly even another planet.
What To Bring
The tour includes dinner, drinks and the use of special telescopes with commentary so all you need to bring is your appetite and your interest in stargazing.
Ian sets up two Dobsonian telescopes, one being an eight inch telescope and the other being a 12 inch, and you get to view everything he talks about.
He also has a special laser light to point out various star formations like the saucepan, the kettle, the emu and all the other great formations that have stories to tell.
When you first arrive you can laze on the undercover lounge chairs while the telescopes are being set up, then dinner is served.
We enjoyed a delicious curry on the night we did the tour, then once the sky is dark the tour begins.
You grab a chair and pull it out under the stars, all the lights get turned off and then your eyes adjust so you can see the stars in all their glory.
We really enjoyed the tour and getting to see the stars so clearly being out of town away from street lights and all the light pollution in town.
It was definitely more beneficial looking through the telescopes with a tour guide as he could point the lense directly at things we probably wouldn’t be able to find, plus he was able to tell us all about what we were looking at.
travel nq fast facts:
- Night Sky Secrets have been running tours since 2009
- Tours run seasonally from May until November each year
- The stargazing happens near Mareeba, one hour from Cairns
- Night Sky Secrets also have a shop at The Pier in Cairns and sell telescopes for any keen astronomers
- To contact Night Sky Secrets 1300 843 759