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The seven best places to see the stars in Victoria
Astronomer Perry Vlahos pinpoints the best locations for stargazing in Victoria.
We all know the natural enemy of the mouse is the cat; and the natural enemy of the cat is the vacuum cleaner. But not many know the natural enemy of the stargazer is the electric lamp. Hence, the best spots for viewing stars are all away from lights of large cities and towns.
Lake Tyrrell in north-west Victoria makes a stunning stargazing location.
Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Sometimes you just can’t get away from the city, or don’t have time to travel to find outer space. Astronomer friends and I occasionally meet at this marine sanctuary in Melbourne along Beach Road. Don’t remain in the well-lit car park, continue south past the last lamp-post.
There you will find a reasonably dark spot for a suburban location and a lovely view of the southern sky. Other Melbourne sites to try are Royal Park, Jells Park and Westerfolds Park.
At this central facility you can look through telescopes in historic surroundings. Because of light pollution you’ll not see galaxies or nebulae, but you’ll be shown the moon and planets. Bookings are arranged via the Royal Botanic Gardens. Ballarat Observatory is similar and, again, you’ll have to call them to book.
ASV Leon Mow Dark Sky Site, Ladys Pass
This is the premier astronomical facility in the state with the largest telescopes in Victoria. Set in the middle of the bush, you’ll need detailed directions to find it, but the Milky Way there is so bright it can cast a shadow. The site is open to the public twice a year in March and December – bookings are essential. Large groups such as schools, clubs and scouts are accepted at other times, with onsite accommodation available. Find out more at www.asv.org.au
Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve
Near RACV’s Cape Schanck Resort at the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula is this marvellous location for viewing stars and photographing aurorae. Leave the carpark and walk toward Pulpit Rock, find a spot sheltered from the lighthouse beam, look south and be amazed. The Bunurong Coastal Reserve, not far from RACV’s Inverloch Resort, is also worth considering.
Not only a popular rock-climbing destination, but a truly superlative location for viewing the splendour of the southern Milky Way. You can drive almost to the lookout and view the stars unobstructed in any direction. A spellbinding spot! Just some 30 minutes’ drive away on the Nhill-Harrow Road is the cosy Little Desert Nature Lodge with good accommodation, and you’ll find it’s a Mecca for those with astronomical intent. The Grampians are excellent, too.
Going further afield, follow the Calder Highway northwest of Melbourne for some 350 kilometres to reach this now popular location. There’s a little bit of light pollution from proximity to Sea Lake, but it’s a good viewing location nevertheless. The indigenous Boorong people lived here and had many stories about the stars, beautifully reflected in the still waters of salty Lake Tyrrell.
Astronomer Perry Vlahos is available to lead group stargazing tours in Victoria. Email firstname.lastname@example.org