Corner Country Star Gazing

Of the dozens of reasons visitors should experience Corner Country one near the top of the list is the opportunity to just gaze at the night sky.  As cities and towns become more illuminated with houses and street lights, the ability to just look up and see the wonderful constellations of the western world, or identify the dark patterns such as Kalthi the celestial emu of Aboriginal culture flying across the Milky Way, are gradually disappearing.

That all changes in the outback where there is little ambient light and the skies are mostly clear. To look to the south at night from March to October is to see the Southern Cross and Milky Way brilliantly displayed.

Or, you might see the “saucepan” where the handle makes up one side of the Greek mythological hunter Orion’s belt buckle.

Look at it from a First Nation’s perspective and it is Djulpan, the celestial canoe with three brothers sitting side by side fishing from a canoe.

The stars were vital as a navigation aid for Sturt as he led the expedition across the Corner Country, but also for First Nations people who were able to migrate to known localities using the stars.

The Milparinka Heritage Dark Sky Park

Milparinka is a perfect place for viewing the dark night sky. There is no artificial street lighting, few buildings and is set amid hundreds of square kilometres of virtually uninhabited landscape.  With clear, bright skies the Milky Way and constellations and planets are clearly visible most nights.

The Dark Sky Park has been created to enable visitors to experience the night skies in a safe environment.   Set in a native garden, it features a representation of the legendary emu Kalthi by renowned sculptor Harrie Fasher through which the milky way can be seen, as well as a rotating planisphere designed by astronomer Fred Watson which allows night time viewers to identify constellations in the southern sky. The project was overseen by Marnie Ogg of Dark Sky Travellers.

For the really serious astronomers and astro-photographers a naturally elevated plateau with 360 degree uninterrupted views is located just a short distance from the Heritage Precinct.

You don’t necessarily need a star viewing platform to see what is visible from almost any location without street and housing lights but, in Milparinka as part of the Sturt’s Steps project are two unique installations to help.  The first is a much-larger-than-life sculptural interpretation of Kalthi, the dark sky emu that has been created by sculptor Harrie Fasher with guidance from Malyangapa elders.

The second installation is a rotatable planisphere which will allow night time identification of several of the most common Western constellations.  By turning the upper disc to the date the constellation most visible on that date will be identified. This has been designed by astronomers Fred Watson and Marnie Ogg. The viewing area is located opposite the Milparinka Heritage Precinct in Loftus Street in a park area known as the Harry Blore Memorial Star Park.