Summer months are an inspiring time for looking at the heavens – some of the brightest stars and constellations are on public display overhead. Furthermore, many of us jump in our cars to the coast or the country for a summer break, which also takes us away from city lights to give us perfect conditions for stargazing. That’s the secret for the best star-viewing experience – don’t waste it!
Try some of the tastiest stellar morsels to savour this summer:
8 December: Star-be-cue
Get a jumpstart on the season’s astronomical treats by taking a trip to this event. It’s open to the public, but you need to book as non-member numbers are capped at 100. It’s held by the Astronomical Society of Victoria at its dark-sky site, 90 minutes’ drive north of Melbourne. The afternoon sees a barbecue, wine tasting and site tours. The evening includes a guided tour of the visible universe and a viewing through the largest telescopes in Victoria. Go to asv.org.au for more details.
14–15 December: Geminid Meteor Shower
This annual appearance of ‘shooting stars’ is most impressive in the country away from city lights, where you may see up to 30 meteors per hour, (or 10 to 15 if you’re in the suburbs) with the naked eye. Look north-east, for at least an hour, between midnight and dawn.
16–17 December: Comet Wirtanen
Comets are notoriously unpredictable, so I write this with the caveat that it could be a fizzer. However, if all goes to plan, go to the country and look for it as a very faint fuzzy ball, no tail. It will be in the north-east sky, just right of the shimmering Pleiades star cluster (Seven Sisters). Binoculars will help, begin to search when it gets dark.