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Stargazing 101: Sundays

April 14, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - May 12, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

Stargazing 101

Due to popular demand we are running a second Stargazing Workshop on Sunday nights.

New Zealand has some of the absolute best skies for stargazing in the world. This five-week Sunday night course is for people who look up at our skies and wonder which stars are twinkling back at them. No prior knowledge is required – just a desire to know more about the skies and how they are used in everyday life including navigation. The course has limited numbers so bookings are essential. It is suitable for ages 10 and up. Take the opportunity to walk through the gardens or Tournament parking is available at the top of the Cable Car.



Course Outline:

Week 1: Positioning Yourself

In the world of stargazing and celestial navigation, you are the centre of the universe. In this introductory class you will learn how to use your body as a compass (the kind that measures angles) and a measuring tape in order to position/orient yourself to the sky.

We will also cover:

  • How to keep an astronomical diary.
  • How to be prepared as you journey into the darkness—tools for enjoyable experiences.
  • Resources to help you plan your outings.
  • The class will contain a planetarium show.

Week 2: Harvesting the Moon

Outside of man-made light pollution, the Moon is the biggest enemy of the stargazer. But, it also offers opportunities to learn how to best approach stargazing. Week 2 focuses on the orbit and phases of the moon—the lunar cycle—and how we can best use our understanding of it to maximise our experience.  We will also cover the seasonal changes to and in our night sky, interesting stellar objects by season, stellar Maori  and European stories of cultural significance.

Week 3:  Getting Messier–Deep Sky Viewing

In the 1770’s, French Astronomer Charles Messier grew frustrated as he searched for comets due to objects that appeared to have similar characteristics–except they weren’t really moving.  What he was actually seeing were star clusters and galaxies far beyond our own.  Week 3 covers Messier and other deep sky objects: their properties, movements/positions, proper motion of the stars and how to view and understand “deep sky” observations. We’ll also cover star maps—where to find them and how to use them.  No French required, though you might need to bring binoculars.

Week 4: Diving in the Deep End

Mankind evolved over millions of years to be daytime animals. As such our eyes are limited in scope, and much of what we see in the night sky can frustrate us as we can’t see the detail.  But we are clever animals, and our desire to see beyond our world became the mother of invention. Week 4 introduces telescope viewing for deep sky objects. We will also cover the mechanics of the night sky–celestial coordinates and the proper motion of stars (building on our understanding of week two’s seasonal viewing)—and list by season telescope specific opportunities.

Week 5: The Big Turn Off: Light Pollution

We end with a citizen science workshop where you will learn how to use and implement the Bortle Scale and engage with the stargazing community by helping to monitor, measure, and report light pollution.  This is Haritina’s favourite workshop. 




April 14, 2019 @ 4:00 pm
May 12, 2019 @ 6:00 pm
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Space Place at Carter Observatory
40 Salamanca Road, Botanic Gardens
Wellington, New Zealand
04 910 3140
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Museums Wellington
+64 4 910 3140
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