Stargazing using your apps
Winter astronomy in Australia offers a bonus not many other countries enjoy: crisp, clear skies.
Our West Australian skies are sparkling at the moment and you won’t be disappointed with so much on offer for July.
If you’re new to astronomy the hardest part is learning all those stars.
But what if your smartphone or tablet could actually help you appreciate the skies more.
Well they can and they’re amazingly simple to use.
Here are some of my favourites: Sky View will identify almost everything above your head at night.
Moon Phase is for your lunar viewing, and the new Aussie app ISS Flyover catches the space station passing over Geraldton for a week ahead.
Star Chart puts a virtual planetarium right in your pocket using uses state of the art GPS technology that will show you the location of every star and planet visible from Earth.
For a more realistic night sky experience, install Stellarium on your laptop or ipad; I’m not going to spoil the surprise, just do it!
An alternative is the popular program Celestia.
After sunset all this week Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will appear in the same part of the north-eastern sky.
Mars steals the show this week because it looks like a brilliant red beacon.
The red star below Mars is Antares, in the constellation Scorpius.
Saturn is nearby and the bright planet Jupiter can be found in the north.
Planets, stars and star patterns have shaped our lives. Do you remember standing out in your backyard as a kid trying to count them all?
For thousands of years, Aboriginal Australians have watched the skies above too.
This fascination with the stars and the night sky extends to almost all indigenous cultures throughout the world.
Knowledge of the night sky was passed on through oral stories, art and dance.
Aboriginal people trace their ancestry to the beings which participated in these events.
Many stories about the eternal dance of the stars above have been passed down from generation to generation.
One such group are the Noongar People who live in the south-western corner of Western Australia, from Geraldton on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast. Noongar means “knowledge”. These indigenous people have lived in this region of Western Australia for more than 45,000 years and can rightly lay claim to be among the world’s first astronomers.
NASA offers free iPhone astronomy apps.