Guest Post by Ute Junker
There are few places where the stars shine as brightly as they do in the outback. Far removed from the bright lights of the big cities, the stars blaze fiercely in the desert sky. Which is why Uluru is the perfect place to indulge in a spot of star gazing. Ayers Rock Resort makes it easy to explore the wonders of the universe, with a choice of astronomy sessions. If you are travelling with children, the family-friendly option just after sunset is perfect, while adult travellers will find the after-dinner session makes for a memorable nightcap.
The sessions, which are an entertaining mix of science and mythology, include the opportunity to look at the stars through high-powered telescopes. However, you will be amazed at how easy it is to spot planets and constellations that are all but invisible in the cities, just with your naked eye.
There is no predicting what you will see - depending on the timing of your visit, you may be able to marvel at the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn or the magnificent sweep of the Magellanic cloud. You may even get to enjoy the blink-and-you-miss-it wonder of a meteor shooting through the sky.
These astro tours do more than just highlight the secrets of the cosmos, however. They also give you the opportunity to see the night sky through Indigenous eyes. Just as our ancestors told stories about the stars shining far above them - think of all those planets named after Greek gods - Indigenous Australian's also have a rich collection of beliefs and stories linked to the stars.
Take, for instance, the giant emu in the sky. Unlike the constellations that we are familiar with, which are delineated by stars, the outline of the emu is a negative shape, formed by looking at the dark sky between the stars. Once it has been pointed out to you, you will wonder how it is that you never noticed it before.
Then there are the seven sisters, the heroes of one of the epic tales of Indigenous Australia. Songlines that stretch the length of the continent recount the many adventures that befell the resourceful sisters as they tried to escape the relentless hunter Wati Neru. Eventually, the girls did find a place of refuge: they fled high into the heavens, where they were transformed into the constellation that we know as the Pleiades.
If the night sky fires your imagination join on of the free Astronomy Information Sessions & activities of the Astronomer in Residence Program to meet and interact with the astrophysicist in residence.
About Ute Junker
Ute Junker worked as a magazine editor and TV and digital producer before running away to become a travel writer. She now gets to pursue her passions - including food, history, art, architecture and wildlife - across the globe.