Stargaz­ing us­ing your apps

Geraldton Guardian - - News - David Reneke

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.

Pic­ture: NASA

NASA of­fers free iPhone as­tron­omy apps.

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