I am a married mother of 2 girls and I live in Perth. We emmigrated from the UK in 2011. I am a freelance writer and a Pet Carer and feel very lucky to do something I really love www.petfriends.net.au
Published April 3rd 2017
Learn about super novas, nebulas and how big our universe is
Did you know that Australia is one of the best places in the world to look at the night sky? We can see 100 times more stars than those in the Northern Hemisphere because we look directly into the vast heart of the Milky Way.
So a few months ago, armed with this information, we booked to do the star gazing night visit at the Gravity Discovery Centre (GDC). The evening was unfortunately cloudy and we didn't get to use the telescopes. We were all very disappointed but the GDC have a policy where if you do not get to use the telescopes due to cloud cover, they will issue you with return tickets for free that are valid for 12 months. So we returned to the GDC recently for our free return night visit.
You have to book in advance as it is very popular and we had no issues using our free return voucher. We were advised that we can arrive early and take advantage of the GDC facilities, walk up the 222 steps of the tower etc (which we did).
Aerial image of GDC courtesy of Perth Aerial Imagery
We booked in for dinner there too; a wonderful Mexican buffet. The food was plentiful, delicious, not too spicy (so even the kids enjoyed it) and vegetarian. Dessert was cream and cake which went down well with everyone. The tables are really fun and a talking point as they have a science theme too.
The main event started off in the Comology Gallery, the white dome shaped building. Our evening was Indigenous Astronomy which included ancestral stories and teaching from Shaun Nannup and we learnt about our indigenous connection with our skies. We were also treated to Shaun playing the didgeridoo, which was just wonderful.
After Shaun's stories, we all walked towards the Observatory. Our guide for the evening, Rick, asked up to stop and view the starry sky with our naked eyes. He pointed a few constellations out to us and then Shaun explained the same constellations from the indigenous point of view. It was so interesting. We then continued to the Observatory and were put into groups of around 8 people. Each group moved together around the telescopes so everyone got to view everything through every telescope.
The Observatory boasts a fully retractable roof and five state of the art telescopes, including one of the largest available to the public in Western Australia. Each telescope had an operator and was already fixed onto the point of interest. Each group was told a bit about the star(s) we were going to be viewing and there was ample opportunity to ask questions and second or third viewings before moving onto the next telescope.
The actual viewings and what we saw was incredible. We managed to view Jupiter with its four moons and even the gas clouds that shroud the planet, the Orion Nebula and the Tarantula Nubula to name just a few and to be honest, I actually can't remember what the other things were called! I was also graced with seeing three shooting stars.
Image courtesy of GDC Observatory- Gingin Facebook page
It really is amazing what you can see when there is no light pollution, even with the naked eye. I would urge you to do one of the star gazing tours as it will awaken the mysterious universe questions that are seated within all of us. Rick is an Astronomer and was superb. He is so knowledgeable, he really knows his stuff and added humour to a very enjoyable evening.
The tours are suitable for all ages, there were plenty of children on our night and they all seemed to be mesmerise, even though it was over 2 hours long. It did get a bit chilly so I would recommend taking a jumper.
There is a shop but will be closed after the event, so ensure get there early and buy your items, before 7pm, or have a sad face when you tell your children 'sorry, it's closed now'!
Also beware of the cows and kangaroos when leaving. It is pitch black and they come out of nowhere. On our first visit, someone had hit a cow and had done major damage to their car and the cow. The police were on site and it did add more time to our drive home.
If you do have cloud cover you will still have a great evening, plus you will get your free return vouchers for another chance to view the amazing starry skies. We were shown on our cloudy night the famous Zadko telescope which scans the sky for potentially hazardous asteroids and is an important facility for astronomy research.