There’s nothing quite like gazing up at the outback sky at night. With crystal clear skies and minimal light pollution, Alice Springs boasts breathtaking views of the stars and constellations that shine brightly over the red centre. In fact, the outback is regarded by many as the best place in Australia, and one of the best places in the world, for stargazing. Read on for some of the most famous stars and constellations that you may be able to see from Alice Springs.
No visit to Australia is complete without spotting the Southern Cross, which consists of five stars in the shape of a kite. This star pattern is pictured on the Australian flag, and mentioned in the Australian national anthem, so it is a significant part of Australian culture. The Southern Cross is part of Crux, which is the smallest constellation in the sky. To find the Southern Cross, look for two particularly bright stars close by: Alpha and Beta Centauri. Follow a line from Alpha to Beta Centauri, which will take you to the top star of the Southern Cross: Gamma Crucis.
Libra is the only constellation from the zodiac family that represents an object rather than an animal or a mythological character. The four brightest stars form a quadrangle, seen as scales representing balance, and the name Libra is Latin for ‘the weighing scales’. Within the Libra constellation lies Methuselah, the oldest known star in the universe, as well as three stars with known planets.
Also from the zodiac family of stars is the Scorpius constellation, which represents a scorpion and has associations with Greek mythology. The brightest star within Scorpius is Antares, which is one of the brightest stars in the sky.
Orion the Hunter
This constellation represents a character from Greek mythology named Orion, who was a hunter. It is one of the brightest and most well-known constellations. Within Orion the Hunter are two of the ten brightest stars in the sky: Rigel and Betelgeuse. This constellation belongs to the Orion constellation family. The stars that make up Orion’s belt and his sword are often referred to as the pot and the saucepan in Australia.
The Seven Sisters
If you’ve found Orion the Hunter, follow a line through the three stars of Orion’s Belt, which will lead you to a V-shaped pattern with a bright star. The V shape is the face of Taurus the Bull, and the bright star is his eye. A little past the eye, you will see the Pleiades cluster of stars, also known as the Seven Sisters, which makes up the bull’s shoulder. The name comes from Greek mythology, in which the Pleiads were seven sisters, however, the stars are also thought to be siblings by astronomers.
These stars and constellations can be seen on a self-guided astrology excursion or simply from your Alice Springs campsite. Alternatively, book a tour to learn about what you see and the significance the constellations have to Aboriginal culture.
Where to stargaze
Located north east of Alice Springs airport, Earth Sanctuary Space Observatory offers a specialist stargazing location, complete with knowledgeable guides. If a guide is not required, simply book a campsite, sit by the fire, and look up. The entire outback offers ideal stargazing conditions, however for the best of the best, venture further away from town into the surrounding ranges and nature parks for even clearer skies.