Sky is the limit for Mid West astrotourism

Headshot of Peter Sweeney
Peter SweeneyMidwest Times
Stargazing expert Carol Redford sets up at Three Springs.
Camera IconStargazing expert Carol Redford sets up at Three Springs. Credit: Supplied

The Mid West has the night skies to become the stargazing capital of the world, according to the founder of Astrotourism WA.

Carol Redford says towns in the Mid West can become drawcards for interstate and international visitors because of their skies.

She led a “look and see” evening at the Three Springs Golf Club last week, described as “perfect conditions” with clear skies and a light breeze.

Three Springs joined the Shires of Carnamah, Morawa, Mingenew, Perenjori, Wongan-Ballidu, Moora and Dandaragan and the City of Greater Geraldton (Mullewa) in supporting Ms Redford’s project of promoting stargazing.

Ms Redford said the world was getting lighter and lighter, while WA was getting darker and darker.

“We could easily become the stargazing capital of the world. The night skies here are amazing and second to none,” Ms Redford said.

“The towns can easily become astrotourism destinations. I don’t think towns in the Mid West and Wheatbelt realise how impressive they are at night and how important they could become.

“This astrotourism project is about how dark and how clear the night sky is in WA. It’s stunning, it is a world-class asset.

“About one-third of humanity don’t get to see the Milky Way, it’s becoming rarer and rarer for people to see it.”

Gingin-based Ms Redford owned and operated the Gingin Observatory with a business partner for five years until 2012.

Then she started a stargazing club.

“The stars are my passion and I want people to get telescopes out,” she said.

That’s exactly what happened at Three Springs, where an evening of star-spotting attracted many locals and 10 amateur astronomers from Perth.

“It was beautiful scenery, very romantic for Valentine’s Day,” Ms Redford said.

Chris Lane, president of the Shire of Three Springs, agreed — as did her 10-year-old son Kade.

“This was a first for Three Springs, but I don’t think it will be the last,” Ms Lane said.

“It was great hearing about it all from an expert and thanks to the Astronomical Group of WA for sharing their telescopes and knowledge.

“Astrotourism is a year-round opportunity, adding value to the Mid West’s seasonal beauty and uniqueness.”

Shire of Three Springs community development officer Sharon Bell said indigenous and Greek astrology stories were told.

“Betelgeuse, Sirius and the moon were among the most popular viewings and we could identify the stars through Carol’s laser pointer,” Ms Bell said.

“We saw Orion and Sirius hunting the Nine Sisters, with Taurus defending them.”

“The kangaroo was out and identifiable, while the Emu was yet to appear. There was even a heart in the night sky, near the Southern Cross.”

Astrotourism WA will present a community stargazing event at Macpherson Homestead on March 1. Contact the Shire of Carnamah for more information.

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