There is more to the night sky than just stars. Constellations, shooting stars and planets reveal a lot more than what we are aware of. It is difficult to see the magnitude and vastness of stars in the night sky while in the city; pollution drowns out our view of outer space. The best observation sites require some traveling, but it is well worth it when you look up at that beautiful night sky. These are just five of such places:
Ayers Rock/Uluru, Australia
As any astronomer knows, the Southern Cross is a constellation unique to the southern hemisphere. For those who know how to read the lines in the stars, use the Southern Cross to locate south; the North Star in the northern hemisphere serves the same purpose. In the Australian outback many of the constellations are clearly visible because of the clear skies and absence of artificial lighting. Aborigines in the area incorporated these stars into their stories to make predictions and to explain past events.
Star City, Russia
The Space Race in the 1950s between the United States and the Soviet Union resulted in competitive space exploration: the launch of the first manmade object into orbit, the moon landing, and others. Star City in Russia has been a cosmonaut-training center since the 1960s, fuelled by the interest in outer space. Many space travelers, trainers, and enthusiasts have passed through these doors. The center also houses a museum of space exploration for those interested in the development thus far.
Sutherland, South Africa
Sutherland in South Africa is known for three things: sheep farming, its extremes in temperatures, and it being a prime spot for stargazing. Owing to its location, Sutherland has one of the world’s clearest and darkest skies. Additional to this, it is home to the biggest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere: Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). The telescope enables scientists to view galaxies billions of times too small, far away and feint to see otherwise. Even without the aid of a telescope, the skies are clear enough for visitors to see the masses of stars.
Kennedy Space Center, USA
Named after one of America’s most iconic presidents, the John F. Kennedy Space Center is a NASA launch center that has been in use since the 1960s. It is located along the Space Coast in Florida. Funny enough, the area code for this region is “321” which, when pronounced individually as “3, 2, 1” resemble the countdown before a shuttle launches into space. Visitors are treated to a variety of exhibits and artefacts with a wealth of articles on display.
Ridge A, Antarctica
If something seems too good to be true then it usually is. Astronomers claim to have found the best observatory site. The problem is that it is located in the remote parts of Antarctica. As if Antarctica could not possibly be challenging enough with its extreme temperatures and distance from the rest of the world, astronomers now have to trek across icy seas and tonnes of snow in order to locate the best viewing spot. It is the best place in the world in which to conduct astrological research, but you will have to work for the privilege of getting there.
Unleash the astronomy geek within by finding the best places to gaze up at the stars. Different locations offer different opportunities. We found five of the best observatories.