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Summer time means beach life on Aotea Great Barrier Island, where children play in the sand, sticking a careful toe in the waves, while their parents catch up and look on. And when the night falls in our Dark Sky Sanctuary, stargazers find us in the sand dunes above the same beach to look up and get lost in the stars.
Have you wondered where she has been? Beautiful Venus, both morning and evening 'star' (but at different times) has been too close to the Sun to be observed through our NZ winter, but now she is back in our evening sky and she can be observed right now from shortly after sunset in the west right through to the end of December. Have a peek at this bright and hot beauty, where no human has landed, yet, despite her closeness and her similarities to our Earth. Watch out for HAVOC. Photo: NASA
When you come to Great Barrier Island for your Dark Sky Experience, make sure you have a few Bright As Day Experiences as well. Our island has so much to offer in the way of natural beauty, that really you could stay for a few weeks. Perhaps enough time to see how the heavens appear to move up 4 minutes every night.
One of the lovely couples enjoying our Group Experience at the end of September. He's come from South Africa, she from the Philippines, but they now live in Auckland and they came to the Barrier for a stargazing experience. Can you spot the Milky Way Kiwi above their head? That Kiwi is very close to the centre of the Milky Way, which is why there is so much to see right in that area of the sky and the bright dot quite close to it is Jupiter, who's been with us throughout winter.
Swapping from the evening to the morning sky at the moment, Venus, the second planet from the Sun, is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. In ancient times, Venus was often thought to be two different stars, the evening star and the morning star — that is, the star that first appeared at sunset and sunrise. Come and observe Venus with us during a #darkskyexperience on #greatbarrierisland #nz
Wondering what we look at during our Dark Sky Experiences? One of the things we always try to get in the telescope is a nebula, a place in the universe where stars are born, such as the Lagoon Nebula in this image from NASA. Through our telescope nebulae do not have the amazing colours a camera can pick up, but it's a buzz to be able to see these celestial objects with your own eyes!
While in the Netherlands for my dad's birthday, I went to have a look at the radio telescopes in Westerbork. The receiving antennas in these telescopes pick up the radio wavelength signals, not visible to the nakes eye, that are emitted from objects in space. Here's a bit more info if you are interested to learn how it works.
In a dark sky, it's not just the stars, planets and other celestial objects that are fun to look at. Did you know that you can see the International Space Station up in the sky? It looks like a star, but is moving along at a much faster space. Have a look if you've got time, starting today or tomorrow! These are the passes over Great Barrier Island in the next week. Source: www.heavens-above.com/main.aspx
While in the Netherlands the other week, I noticed all the air traffic, and thus airplane trails in the sky. I was told these lines cause 8% of the cloud cover in the sky, and at times it seemed to be even more. With a very limited number of airplanes flying over our Great Barrier Island Dark Sky Sanctuary, especially at night, it's another type of pollution that we do not have to worry about during our Dark Sky Experiences.
Just now that Venus is about to disappear out of the evening sky, Mercury is visible in the west, a bright 'star' to the North and above Venus. Seeing the smallest in our solar system planet family is a bit like seeing a cheeky little brother, as Mercury is often hiding in the glare of our Sun, and disappears before it's dark enough to start our Dark Sky Experiences. #darkskyexperiences #milkywaykiwi #greatbarrierisland #stargazing Photo: NASA science
I am so excited to share my last night's efforts with you, taken through the telescope with my smartphone. Not perfect, but exciting to share a bit of what we see during a Dark Sky Experience. See that detail along the terminator? It's better still in real life! The slight green tinge is the effect of the moon filter we use to protect everyone's eyes, as the lens magnifies not just the image of the moon, the intensity of the light reflected by the moon is increased by the same factor, too.
Hilde has just come back from the Netherlands to celebrate her dad's 80th birthday. That's him in the pic, with the hat on. Born on 4 October, he's a Libra. The zodiacal constellation Libra the Scales is a fixture of the evening sky during the Southern Hemisphere winter, it's just disappearing out of the evening sky. The Good Heavens team would love to show you where to spot your constellation and its interesting features in our dark starry sky. Contact us for the best dates for you.
The Good Heavens logo represents our beautiful Southern Hemisphere sky with the Southern Cross and pointer stars, a touch of the magic this stunning sky holds for those that look up with us, and the golden colour represents the quality experience we provide.