Star-struck by the night sky

Star-struck by the night sky


Life & Style
Taken at Lake Ninan in Wongan Hills. It features the Aboriginal Astronomy constellation of the Emu in the Sky. The red star-like object is Mars. Photograph by Southern Cross photographer Kylie Gee, Indigo Storm Photography.

Taken at Lake Ninan in Wongan Hills. It features the Aboriginal Astronomy constellation of the Emu in the Sky. The red star-like object is Mars. Photograph by Southern Cross photographer Kylie Gee, Indigo Storm Photography.

Aa

Those living in country WA can walk outside and gaze up at the stars any day of the week, yet millions of people exist in the world without having seen a star.

Aa

IT’S harvest time.

You’ve finally shut everything down for the night and stepped off the header ready to head home for just a few hours of sleep before you’re up to do it all over again.

There’s nothing but you, a freshly harvested paddock glowing in the moonlight and that glorious inky black velvet sky stretching for miles above your head.

Complete stillness, utter silence, and hundreds of billions of twinkling stars.

Do you know how rare that moment is?

Carol Redford does, and that’s why she’s on a stellar mission to preserve one of WA’s most precious natural resources and attractions, while also spreading the word to every corner of the globe.

“I think we tend to take it for granted that we can step outside, stand in the dark silence and stare at these awe-inspiring skies.” - Carol Redford

Those lucky enough to be living in country WA can walk out their back door and gaze up at the stars any night of the week, and yet somehow millions of people exist in the world without having ever seen a single star.

All they know are skies artificially lightened by the human hand, polluting the air up there and blocking their view of earth’s truly remarkable night sky.

It’s because of the reality of this growing rarity that Carol Redford, more commonly known among WA’s amateur stargazers as Galaxy Girl, is on a passionate crusade to preserve our unique asset and attract more visitors to experience it.

She’s established an ‘Astrotourism Network’ of towns throughout the Mid West and Wheatbelt, and together with the local shires, has mapped out astrotourism, stargazing and astro-photography hot spots.

With more than 4000 members belonging to the various amateur astro groups in WA, and plenty of visitors star-struck by our sprawling night skies, Carol believes there is huge scope for WA’s largest natural asset.

“The astonishing thing is, millions of people don’t have access to the stars,” Carol said.

“This is a huge, untapped asset of WA’s that I believe people will want to travel to see and experience, like the Great Barrier Reef.

“And from a tourism perspective, it’s something that can really be harnessed by regional areas.

“It can be accessed 365 days of the year, weather permitting, it can’t be done in the cities or larger regional towns due to light pollution, and people have to stay at least one night locally to see it.

Passionate stargazer Carol Redford is in the process of setting up Astrotourism Towns, a network of regional centres who have collaboratively mapped out certain spots throughout WA, perfectly suited to stargazers and for astrophotographers to capture our awe-inspiring night sky.

Passionate stargazer Carol Redford is in the process of setting up Astrotourism Towns, a network of regional centres who have collaboratively mapped out certain spots throughout WA, perfectly suited to stargazers and for astrophotographers to capture our awe-inspiring night sky.

“I think we tend to take it for granted that we can step outside, stand in the dark silence and stare at these awe-inspiring skies.”

Carol decided to start at a grass-roots level and approached a number of shires about the initiative, eight of which have already signed on including Perenjori, Three Springs, Carnamah, Wongan Hills, Cervantes, Morawa, Mullewa and Mingenew.

Carol acts as a consultant to these Astrotourism Towns on how to reduce light pollution, collectively map out great spots for stargazing and photography, inform and train locals and work out a marketing strategy further afield.

“I approached these shires mainly to remind them that they have this rare asset, and we need to conserve it so it’s here for generations to come,” she said.

“I was blown away and very impressed by how many shires and communities got on board straight away, it’s very exciting.

“We have over 4000 members belonging to amateur astronomy groups here in WA, all looking for the best places to go and places where they are welcome.

“Astrotourism and astrophotography has really taken off in the past couple of years, and it’s about harnessing that opportunity.

“There is such a wide scope for opportunity and multiple flow-on effects this industry could have for our small towns.

“Think of things like glamping packages, Aboriginal astronomy tours and a locally prepared dinner in the bush that includes stargazing.”

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Our big twinkling sky is the limit according to Carol, who found herself an accidental stargazer back in 2007 when she co-purchased the Gingin Observatory, not far up the road from where her family runs a cattle farm.

She knew very little about the universe beyond earth, and after five years of staring at the stars and listening to thousands of stargazers making exciting discoveries, she became hooked.

Even now, she still loves having the ability to line up the telescope and show people Saturn, drawing back the curtain on the universe and enlightening those who love to look up instead of down.

Carol started the Stargazers Club WA in 2013 to link other amateur stargazers and her passion has snowballed to include the Astrotourism Towns.

One of the main motivating factors for this initiative is five years in the future – in April 2023 to be exact, when a rare Hybrid Solar Eclipse event will occur, best viewed from the stunning setting of Exmouth WA.

“Knowing that this eclipse will be happening in less than five years’ time was the trigger to get me motivated and establish this stargazers trail,” she said.

“This is all part of the lead up, if we can get the regions prepared and set up for this event, then we can truly promote WA as the premium place for stargazing.

“It’s about taking this opportunity where tens of thousands of people from all over the world will be descending on WA, and being able to offer so much more than a two-minute eclipse event.

“We have a long way to go yet, but so far the interest has been exciting and encouraging.”

Aa

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