Father’s Day in the stars

By: James Smith

With Father’s Day around the corner, I was asked recently whether I had any astronomy related ideas for the perfect Father’s Day.

For me, Great Barrier Island would be a good start. It is within easy reach by ferry or plane, and has fantastic accommodation options. And best of all, it now has ‘astro-tourism’ options.

Great Barrier Island has almost no light pollution as it is ‘off the grid’, and due to its distance from the mainland, has no ‘spill over’ light. This gives the island exceptionally good skies for astronomy.

The island had just been named the world’s third Dark Sky Sanctuary, and the first island sanctuary.

The knowledgeable Dark Sky Ambassadors take you out to some of the best dark sky areas and give you a tour of the night skies. With their telescopes, you get up close to the stars, constellations and fascinating deep sky objects. You get to see planets and even distant galaxies. This makes for a memorable and interesting experience, truly worthy of a great Father’s Day!

Staying closer to home is not only affordable, but you can also be creative. If the weather plays along, head out to Shakespear Regional Park for an evening under the stars.

Pack a picnic blanket, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and a pair of good binoculars.

Some of my best experiences have been lying on a blanket and gazing up at the stars.

Not only do you see the stars, but also satellites passing overhead and the odd ‘shooting star’ entering the atmosphere.

With your binoculars, you can see the Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae globular clusters.

You will also see various nebulae and open clusters as you look along the arc of the Milky Way. It doesn’t get much better than this!

With Jupiter so prominent in the evening skies, you should be able to find it easily. Using your binoculars, you may be able to see some of Jupiter’s moons. For someone who has only ever seen our moon, it is pretty memorable to see another three or four of them.

I would recommend installing one of the astronomy apps on your phone, so you can see what is about, and where to find them. Google Skymap is my favourite for Android devices. StarWalk 2 is available for iPhones. For me, these apps are essential.

If the skies are overcast, the next best thing is to sit at home together and watch a good documentary about space or astronomy. Carl Sagan’s TV series ‘Cosmos’ is still pretty good, even though it is dated in parts. There are various other astronomy documentaries available on many of the streaming services. Sit back with your popcorn and drink and enjoy the universe from the comfort of your sofa.

Another option would be to take a trip to the Stardome Observatory & Planetarium at One Tree Hill Domain. They have some fantastic events on, including Wine, Cheese and Astronomy events for adults, as well as shows for the entire family.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that the most important thing about Father’s Day is to spend time with those you care about and make them feel loved and appreciated.

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