World class stargazing trail across Western Australia

Mogens JohansenThe West Australian
Resilience art sculpture near Paraburdoo in WA's Pilbara makes a stunning subject for astrophotographers.
Camera IconResilience art sculpture near Paraburdoo in WA's Pilbara makes a stunning subject for astrophotographers. Credit: Supplied

The low levels of light pollution makes regional WA one of the best places in the world to study and photograph the night sky.

It’s an educational family-friendly activity and best of all — it’s free.

And now, thanks largely to the tireless work by Carol Redford from Astrotourism WA, even more locations across the Pilbara and the Southern Wheatbelt are set to be become iconic destinations for stargazing and astronomy

Over the past two years, Redford has been working with 15 local governments to establish a stargazing trail across Western Australia. Narrogin and Onslow have been added to the Astrotourism Towns map. The sites include Yilliminning Rock near Narrogin and the nine tonne Resilience art sculpture just outside Paraburdoo.

“Our State has one of the largest dark spaces in the world, which makes it ideal to roll out the welcome mat for visitors to experience our awe-inspiring views of the Milky Way above our iconic landmarks and attractions,” Redford says.

In recent months, Redford travelled through the Shire of Ashburton in the Pilbara and the Shire of Narrogin in the southern Wheatbelt to scout for new dark sky locations that would attract visitors for stargazing, astrophotography and amateur observing with telescopes.

Yilliminning Rock near Narrogin provides a peaceful environment to contemplate the Universe.
Camera IconYilliminning Rock near Narrogin provides a peaceful environment to contemplate the Universe. Credit: Supplied

Both local governments have recognised that dark skies are becoming a rarity on planet earth, and increasingly highly sought after as natural wonders by thousands of people around the world. The vision is to turn these beautiful, mysterious and mesmerising dark skies into an economic asset for tourism for local government in WA lucky enough to have them.

Shire of Ashburton president Kerry White says the night time skies in the shire are a spectacular sight.

“With our vast region and little light pollution, we have the best environments from Onslow to Tom Price to develop stargazing locations with key observing sites now listed on the Astrotourism Towns map,” she says.

In the Narrogin region, special nocturnal animal experiences have been a visitor attraction for many years. Adding complementary Astrotourism opportunities enhances these activities.

Shire President Leigh Ballard says: “There are both economic and community benefits to being an Astrotourism Town. Significantly, from an economic standpoint, dark sky tourism necessitates one or more overnight stays thereby increasing visitor spending in local economies.”

Ms Redford is currently working with each local government’s relevant officers who oversee community, tourism and economic development. They are working together to plan free family community stargazing evenings with telescope viewing. The events will raise awareness of WA’s pristine night sky and dark sky tourism concepts. All will be welcome and dates will be released in coming months.

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