There’s a whole universe out there, and we spoke with Teale Britstra, a member of the Brisbane Astronomical Society, who says astronomy doesn’t have to be hard work, doesn’t require a telescope and doesn’t necessarily mean you need to travel any further than your own backyard if you don’t really want to.
Put the phone down (after reading this of course) and start a digital detox from the stars of your fave tv shows and Insta accounts and get a blanket, a buddy and maybe some cheeky wine and nibbles and look up at the real stars for a change. While the best stargazing is done away from the city lights, there are still plenty of close scenic locations that provide good views of what the night sky has to offer.
Here are Teale Britstra’s suggestions for the best stargazing spots in Brisbane.
Plenty of amateur astronomers around (including myself) do most of their stargazing from their backyard. While it might not give the best naked-eye views of the Milky Way, faint nebulae, or galaxies, there’s still a huge list of objects that can be seen with a small telescope or even binoculars. Brighter star clusters and most of the planets are easily visible, not to mention our sometimes under-rated neighbour The Moon! Not to mention it can be a great place to learn your way around the sky and learn the constellations.
It’s quite a pretty location to start with, and the jetty itself faces east-northeast, which makes a nice focal point for events that occur near the eastern horizon like Sunrise or Moonrise.
The landscape naturally makes you face south, and there are very few lights in that direction for perhaps a couple hundred kilometres. That makes for some very dark skies within a reasonably short drive from Brisbane (up to a one-hour drive).
Eastern Moreton and Stradbroke
These islands have a nice easterly aspect and are facing away from the bright lights of Brisbane, which help provide a darker sky. As they are located far enough away from the City, the light pollution shouldn’t be too bad either.
Other lakeside locations
There are some better-known lakes than Lake Moogerah (mentioned above), including Wivenhoe and Somerset, plus others like Wyaralong, Atkinson, Maroon, etc. Most of these locations are far enough away from Brisbane to get darker skies, and the view isn’t bad either. It is recommended to research the area on the SEQ website, to see whether you are permitted on the campgrounds/ day-use areas after hours.
The lookouts, such as Mount Gravatt and Mount Coot-tha – while not ideal in terms of light pollution – still have a nice view, and could be used to view brighter stars and planets while overlooking the city. BAS (Brisbane Astronomical Society) holds a free public viewing at Mount Coot-tha lookout once a month, weather permitting. The skies aren’t the clearest, but the view is terrific and it’s an opportunity to look through some fairly large amateur telescopes for free.
Although they aren’t ‘real’ stars (unless you go to a telescope viewing held there), it’s still an opportunity to lie back and be awestruck by some mind-blowing sights! Not everyone can make it to a dark sky location, and the Planetarium is the next best thing. Besides, you can visit during the day and be in air-conditioned comfort.
5 tips from Teale Britstra, member of the Brisbane Astronomical Society:
- Less moon = more stars
The moon actually makes the sky significantly brighter, so the best conditions occur when it’s below the horizon or near a new moon. Even dark sky locations aren’t at their best if there is a full moon shining, washing out all the fainter stars.
- Lake Moogerah is a top spot
Lake Moogerah is Teale’s favourite stargazing spots (listed above).
- No telescope? No troubles
For beginners, binoculars are fantastic. As a tip, binoculars come with a rating (say 16×50). The first number is the magnification, the second is the “aperture” which is basically a measure of how much light they gather. For astronomy, you don’t want the first number over about 10; seven or so is perfect. With the second number, the bigger the better; I’d go for maybe 50 or 60. These days, plenty of people use a camera or phone apps successfully too.
- Your eyes and the night sky
It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the sky, but you don’t need to stay out all night. I’ve had plenty of nights where I’ll set up, get something done and then pack up, all within an hour or two.
- Shooting Stars and Meteors
If you’re lucky (and have the right conditions) you could see a meteor or shooting star every 30 minutes in our beautiful night sky. So many wishes!
Find more information or join an astronomical club or society below:
• Brisbane Astronomical Society
• Astronomical Association of Queensland
• South East Queensland Astronomical Society
• Southern Astronomical Society
• Redlands Astronomical Society
• Scenic Rim Astronomy Association