Southern stargazing

On Sunday night I found myself next to the beautiful, blue, glacier-fed waters of Lake Tekapo. If you've been following my travels you may remember that I was here a week or two ago visiting the Mt John Observatory. Being such a beautiful clear evening I decided to have a walk up the Department of Conservation (DOC) path to observe the stars from the summit (note: a red torch is essential for coming back down if you ever find yourself doing this).

By about half an hour to an hour after sunset, there were thousands of stars visible. It was fantastic. I easily found the 'Pointers' over the southern horizon and used them, along with the Southern Cross, to find the point directly above the south pole. On the other side of the pole I could easily make out the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These two dwarf galaxies are orbiting our galaxy - the Milky Way - and are being slowly consumed. Back across the pole I noticed that the dust cloud next to the Southern Cross was really inky black. The contrast between it and the starlight from the Milky Way was brilliant.

I followed the Milky Way across the sky to Orion who was standing on his head. A short hop down towards the horizon took me to the Hyades (and Aldebaran) and to the Pleiades (Seven Sisters/Subaru) which were a matter of degrees above the horizon. It was amazing to see the Milky Way to within five or so degrees above the horizon. Back in Manchester you can't see any of it because we have too much light pollution and the air isn't too transparent.

For the next hour or two I sat and watched the area around the south pole. It is just so darn interesting and I never get to see it from up in the UK. It was stunning. I also spotted four meteors between the Pointers, Southern Cross, LMC and SMC. They may have been sporadic (random directions), but it almost seemed as though they were coming from the same radiant. That is most likely wishful thinking on my part.

Southern stargazing. Sweet as.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 21st Feb 2006 (04:04 UTC) | Permalink
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