The southern skies at night - what can I say? I've been getting neck-ache gazing up at the celestial show at every opportunity, but most of the time I'm not really sure what I'm looking at, exactly. A little instruction in the star-gazing department was definitely required. So last night I headed to the Sydney Observatory for a master-class on the Milky Way. And the universe never looked so lovely.
Seriously, if you can't make it into the Oz interior where the skies are likely to be clearer, the observatory is a good starting point. And even though the skies were cloudy last night, the moon peeked through the clouds and we had a grandstand view through one of the observatory's huge telescopes, in the 19th century copper-covered north dome.
Thanks to instruction from young Edward, who knows a bit about physics, astronomy and things that my little brain can barely compute, I learned a lot last night. Such as: when we look at space we're looking at what's already happened one heck of a long time ago. And if I ever get up early enough to watch the sunrise, I'll remember that what I'm looking at happened eight minutes' before.
And another fascinating tip-bit: Captain Cook originally planned to go to Tahiti to track the transit of Venus, but got diverted to Oz. And if he hadn't? Who knows how different Australia might be now.
In the planetarium, we had a talk on how to spot sparkling things in the sky, like Sirius, the brighest star, and the Southern Cross which of course I don't normally see at night in Blighty. And then onto the 3D cinema for an amazing romp through space exploration; the future of planetary life and how size does matter. A tricky business it seems. The moon and the sun look the same size to us here on the ground, but are they really?
Don't take my word for all this - grab a place on a night tour. www.sydneyobeservatory.com.au