Nestled amidst the vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean, Norfolk Island stands as a haven for those seeking to escape the clutches of urban light pollution and immerse themselves in the celestial splendor of the night sky. Far removed from the twinkling metropolises and sprawling suburbs, this remote island boasts one of the darkest skies on Earth, earning it the prestigious Gold Level Dark Sky certification.

As the sun sets and darkness takes over, Norfolk Island becomes an excellent spot for stargazing. The lack of light pollution and the island's warm, clear nights create perfect conditions for observing the celestial wonders. The sky gradually fills with stars, including the mesmerizing Milky Way, making it a paradise for those who love to look up and appreciate the beauty of the universe. 

Join our guided stargazing tour and let an experienced astronomer guide you through the celestial wonders that abound. Learn to identify constellations, from the familiar Orion to the enigmatic Scorpio, each with its own captivating mythology and rich cultural significance.  

Join our guided stargazing tour and let an experienced astronomer guide you through the celestial wonders that abound. Learn to identify constellations, from the familiar Orion to the enigmatic Scorpio, each with its own captivating mythology and rich cultural significance.   Discover the wonders of the cosmos, from the majestic planets of our solar system to the distant nebulae and galaxies. Looking through a powerful telescope on Norfolk Island reveals some cool stuff in the sky. Saturn's rings look like a celestial hula hoop, and the Jewel Box star cluster has colors that'll blow your mind.

But the stargazing on Norfolk Island is more than just looking at cool things. It's an experience that goes beyond just watching—it's about feeling a deep connection with the universe. Standing under the starry sky in the quiet of the island, you can't help but feel small and humble. It's a reminder of how tiny we are in the vastness of the universe. 

Stargazing tours on Norfolk Island aren't just for seeing space stuff. They're a chance to reconnect with yourself, to rediscover the wonder that often gets lost in our busy lives. It's an invitation to slow down, take a breath, and think about the beauty and vastness of the universe, finding comfort and inspiration in its celestial hug. 

***NEW for 2024...You can pay off your trip by instalments with us OR just your airfare. Speak to us!

FOR BOOKING ENQUIRIES/COSTS ETC  Australian Mobile 0402 335 005 - Email:

Webb Telescope Data Surprises Scientists, Challenging Universe Theories

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is throwing scientists a curveball! This powerful telescope is seeing things in the early universe that don't match what scientists predicted. This new data is forcing them to re-evaluate their understanding of how the universe began and evolved.

Early Universe Brighter Than Expected

One surprise is how bright and active galaxies were in the early universe. Scientists thought these galaxies would be smaller and fainter. This suggests the early universe was a much more energetic place than previously thought.

Mysterious Age Discrepancy

Another head-scratcher is the age of the universe. Using different methods, scientists get slightly different answers. One method suggests 13.7 billion years, while another points to 13.8 billion years. This difference may seem small, but it's a big deal in astronomy. It hints that our current understanding of the universe's expansion rate, and the role of dark matter and dark energy, might be incomplete.

Hope for the Future

Despite the challenges, scientists are excited. The JWST's data, along with future telescopes and powerful computers, will be a game-changer. This flood of new information will help them refine our models of the universe and answer long-standing questions about its origins and workings.

For Consideration:

  • JWST data reveals an unexpectedly bright and active early universe.
  • Different methods for measuring the universe's age give conflicting results.
  • These findings challenge our current understanding of the universe.
  • New tools like JWST, supercomputers, and AI offer hope for future breakthroughs.

Could these big expandable habitats help humanity settle the moon and Mars?

Max Space wants to help humanity expand into the final frontier. The startup is developing a range of inflatable space habitats, the largest of which could provide as much internal volume as a sports stadium. These plans, which Max Space unveiled on Tuesday (April 9) here at the 39th Space Symposium, are designed to help our species make the difficult leap off its home planet.

"The problem with space today is, there isn't enough habitable space in space," Max Space co-founder Aaron Kemmer said in a statement on Tuesday. "Unless we make usable space in space a lot less expensive, and much much larger, humanity's future in space will remain limited."

Back in 2010, Kemmer co-founded the off-Earth manufacturing company Made In Space, which has sent multiple 3D-printing devices to the International Space Station (ISS) over the years. (Made In Space was acquired by Redwire in 2020.) He says that experience helped convince him that expandable habitats are the future, citing one of the machines Made In Space modified for use on the ISS.

"It's like a three-story system on Earth, and all the engineering wasn't to make it work in space — it was actually to get it down to a locker [size], just because there wasn't enough real estate in there," Kemmer told in an interview here at the symposium on Tuesday. Expandable habitats, as the name suggests, launch in compressed form to fit inside rocket fairings but increase in size greatly when deployed in space. They therefore offer much more bang for the buck volume-wise than traditional "tin can" module designs.

An expandable habitat with 100 cubic meters (3,530 cubic feet) of pressurized volume, for example, would be "at least an order of magnitude cheaper" than a comparable metallic one, Kemmer said. (For perspective: The ISS offers 388 cubic meters, or 13,700 cubic feet, of habitable volume, not including the space provided by visiting vehicles.)

This is not a sci-fi concept; three expandable module prototypes are actually circling Earth right now. They are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, which are free fliers that launched in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which has been attached to the ISS since 2016.

All three were built by Nevada-based company Bigelow Aerospace, which closed its doors in 2020. The pressure-restraining hulls for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were designed and manufactured by Thin Red Line Aerospace, a small Canadian company run by Maxim de Jong — Max Space's other co-founder. The new startup, which has been in operation for about a year, is commercializing Thin Red Line Aerospace technology, Kemmer and de Jong said. But that tech isn't just a Genesis retread.

"It's a very, very, very different approach, where you're just putting fibers in an uncoupled scenario where they don't conflict with one another," de Jong told on Tuesday. The result, he and Kemmer said, is a cost-effective module that expands in a predictable and reliable way, and is highly scalable to larger sizes.

The new tech will get its first off-Earth test just two years from now, if all goes according to plan: Max Space has booked a spot on a SpaceX rideshare launch in 2026. That mission will send a module the size of two large suitcases to orbit. However, that's the habitat's compressed configuration. Once deployed, it will expand to a pressurized volume of 20 cubic meters (706 cubic feet).

This deployment will set a new record for expandable habitats. The two Genesis prototypes both feature 11.5 cubic meters (406 cubic feet) of internal volume, while BEAM has 16 cubic meters (565 cubic feet). Max Space has already built a full-size prototype of the first flight unit, which the company is using for ground testing, Kemmer said. It has started manufacturing the flight vehicle, which will not feature life-support systems but will have the same shielding and strength as human-rated versions.

Max Space plans to keep moving fast after this pioneering module makes it to orbit. The startup aims to launch its first 100-cubic-meter (3,531 cubic feet) module in 2027 and to get a 1,000-cubic-meter (35,314 cubic feet) behemoth up by 2030. Even larger variants could potentially launch thereafter, aboard SpaceX's Starship megarocket or Blue Origin's New Glenn vehicle, the company said. The goal is to provide a variety of destinations to a range of customers, from pharmaceutical companies that want to mass-produce medicines in microgravity to commercial space stations that want to expand their living space all the way to movie studios looking to film in orbit.

"We have several space production companies that we're talking to," Kemmer said. The company has already secured some customer contracts, including from the U.S. Space Force, he added. But Earth orbit will be just the starting point for Max Space modules, if all goes according to plan.  "My dream is to have a city on the moon before I die," Kemmer said. "So I look at this like, this is going to be the habitat, the structures, that are going to go inside the lava tubes buried under the [lunar] surface."

The company's modules would then make their way to Mars, if all goes well, for Max Space wants to be a key enabler of off-Earth settlement. Indeed, that's why Kemmer and de Jong founded the company — to help humanity extend its footprint out into the solar system. "That was the entire reason," Kemmer said.

A Tantalizing 'Hint' That Astronomers Got Dark Energy All Wrong

Astronomers might have discovered a crack in the theory of dark energy, the mysterious force accelerating the universe's expansion. This could mean good news for the cosmos' ultimate fate!

Think of dark energy like an invisible push throughout space, counteracting gravity's pull and making everything spread further apart. Previously, scientists thought this push was constant. But a giant new survey called DESI, mapping millions of galaxies, hints that dark energy might be more like a dimmer switch, getting stronger or weaker over time.

That's a big deal because the old, constant dark energy theory predicted a rather bleak future. Eventually, the ever-growing dark energy push would rip galaxies and even atoms apart, leaving a cold, dark, empty universe. But if dark energy changes, it might not be so dire! Maybe it will weaken in the future, allowing gravity to eventually pull things together or even cause the expansion to slow down.

However, there's a big "if" here. This is a fresh finding, with only a one in 400 chance of being a fluke. Scientists need more data to be sure. They're excited, but cautious, calling it a hint, not proof yet.

DESI is a monster project, a 5,000-eyed telescope peering back in time 11 billion years, measuring the expansion rate of the universe at different points. They compared these measurements to a special cosmic ruler – leftover ripples from the universe's super hot, early days. If dark energy were constant, the galaxies would be spaced a certain way across these ripples. But DESI found galaxies in recent times closer together than expected, hinting that dark energy might have been weaker back then.

This could rewrite our cosmological rulebook. The leading model, Lambda-CDM (Lambda for dark energy, CDM for Cold Dark Matter, another mysterious cosmic player), might need an update. If dark energy is indeed a dimmer switch, cosmologists will need to figure out how and why it changes, completely revamping our understanding of this invisible force and the universe's grand fate. Stay tuned, as astronomers race to gather more data and solve this cosmic whodunit!

White House directs NASA to create a new time zone for the moon

The White House has tasked NASA with creating a new time zone for the moon by the end of 2026, as part of the United States' broader goal to establish international norms in space. The direction to set up a lunar time zone comes amid growing global interest for humanity to establish a long-term presence on the moon in the coming years — a chief priority of NASA's Artemis program.

The new lunar standard, called "Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC)," is part of a broader effort to "establish time standards at and around celestial bodies other than Earth," according to an April 2 memo by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). It was not immediately clear whether the moon would have multiple time zones, as Earth does.

"U.S. leadership in defining a suitable standard — one that achieves the accuracy and resilience required for operating in the challenging lunar environment — will benefit all spacefaring nations," the memo stated. Because there is lower gravity on the moon than on Earth, time there moves slightly faster — 58.7 microseconds faster every day. Though minuscule, that difference would make it harder for the growing number of future missions to communicate with each other and for mission control to accurately track satellite and crew positions, among other issues.

"As NASA, private companies and space agencies around the world launch missions to the moon, Mars and beyond, it's important that we establish celestial time standards for safety and accuracy," Steve Welby, the OSTP deputy director for national security, said in a statement. On Earth, time is measured by numerous atomic clocks placed in various locations around our planet. A similar ensemble of atomic clocks on the moon itself may be used for lunar timekeeping.

"An atomic clock on the moon will tick at a different rate than a clock on Earth," Kevin Coggins, manager of NASA's Space Communications and Navigation Program, told the Guardian. "It makes sense that when you go to another body, like the moon or Mars, that each one gets its own heartbeat."

In space, there are a couple of different ways in which space agencies keep time. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, which is in low Earth orbit, follow Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). For spacecraft elsewhere, NASA uses "Spacecraft Event Time" to catalog key mission events, like science observations or engine burns. To establish LTC on the moon, the space agency told NPR that "subject matter experts throughout the international community are discussing an approach to provide recommendations to the International Astronomical Union for lunar reference frame and time systems."

NASA's Artemis program currently plans to send humans to the moon no sooner than September 2026, three months prior to the deadline to establish LTC. China previously announced a lunar crewed mission before the end of this decade and India by 2040.

Bun in the Oven... Among the Stars? Having Babies in Space

Space travel is no longer just for the few. With private companies aiming for the stars and talk of Mars colonization, a question arises: could we create the next generation out there? While it might sound like science fiction, there's actual research being done.

The first hurdle is fertilization. Conception itself might not be a problem in microgravity – after all, astronauts can experience menstrual cycles. But space is a harsh environment filled with radiation. Sperm and egg cells are particularly vulnerable to this, potentially harming the developing baby's DNA. There have been experiments sending sperm to space, with some success in fertilization upon return. However, the DNA showed damage, raising concerns about birth defects.

Even if fertilization is achieved, a mother's health is a big concern. Pregnancy on Earth is demanding, and microgravity throws new challenges into the mix. Our bones and muscles weaken in low gravity, affecting the mother's health and potentially impacting the baby's development. Radiation exposure throughout pregnancy is another worry.

So, what about a Martian baby? Mars has gravity, about a third of Earth's. This might be enough to mitigate some bone and muscle issues. However, the Martian atmosphere is thin and offers little protection from radiation.

Beyond physical challenges, there are ethical considerations. Would a child born in space be able to return to Earth and live comfortably with Earth's gravity? What kind of social and developmental issues might they face, having never experienced a "normal" environment?

The good news is that scientists are actively researching these issues. Experiments are underway to create artificial gravity habitats and develop better shielding against radiation. Understanding how microgravity affects pregnancy is crucial.

So, will we have space babies anytime soon? Probably not. There's a lot to learn and overcome before it's considered safe. But with continued research and the potential for long-term space habitation, who knows? The future of our species may one day include cradles amongst the stars. Imagine the possibilities – the first generation born on Mars, taking their first steps not on familiar soil, but on red alien dust. The challenges are numerous, but the potential rewards are equally vast. Spacefaring babies might not be science fiction forever.

Are Neil's Footprints Still On The Moon?

In the vast expanse of space, where humanity once dared to venture, a question lingers: Are Neil Armstrong's footprints still on the moon? It's a query that captures the imagination and curiosity of many, echoing through the corridors of history and igniting debates among scientists and enthusiasts alike.

Neil Armstrong's iconic first steps on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, marked a monumental leap for mankind. As the world watched in awe, Armstrong's words echoed through the vacuum of space: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." His footprints, immortalized in photographs and footage, became symbols of human achievement and exploration.

Decades have passed since that historic moment, and the lunar landscape remains largely untouched by human presence. However, the moon is not a static entity. Its surface is constantly bombarded by micrometeoroids and affected by the harsh conditions of space. Over time, these natural processes can alter the landscape, potentially erasing or obscuring the footprints left by Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts.In light of this, discussions have emerged about preserving these historic imprints. Ideas range from creating a protective barrier around the landing sites to developing advanced materials capable of withstanding the lunar environment. Some have even proposed erecting a monument on the moon's surface, a tribute to the pioneers of space exploration and a beacon for future generations.

NASA scientists have studied the long-term effects of lunar erosion, monitoring the changes in the moon's surface. While some footprints may have been disturbed or obscured by lunar regolith – the layer of loose soil and debris covering the moon's surface – others may still endure, preserved in the vacuum of space.

One theory suggests that the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts could persist for millions of years, thanks to the moon's lack of atmosphere and minimal environmental factors. Unlike Earth, where wind, water, and vegetation can quickly erase traces of human activity, the moon's desolate landscape acts as a natural preservative, protecting relics of the past.

However, recent advancements in lunar exploration have reignited interest in the fate of Armstrong's footprints. Private companies and international space agencies are planning missions to return to the moon, aiming to explore new regions and conduct scientific research. These future missions could inadvertently disturb the lunar surface, further altering or obliterating the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the preservation of Armstrong's footprints, their symbolic significance endures. They serve as a reminder of humanity's ingenuity and ambition, inspiring future generations to reach for the stars and explore the unknown.

As the debate continues, one thing remains certain: Neil Armstrong's historic first steps on the moon will forever be etched in the annals of history. Whether his footprints still grace the lunar surface or have been erased by the passage of time, their legacy lives on as a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration.

In the end, the mystery of Neil Armstrong's footprints serves as a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of human existence against the vastness of the cosmos. Yet, even as time marches on, the indelible mark left by Armstrong and his fellow astronauts continues to inspire and captivate the imagination of generations to come. Perhaps, one day, a monument will rise on the moon, honouring those brave souls who ventured into the unknown and forever changed the course of history.

Devil Comet only seen in Australian skies every 70 years

Stargazers are in for a treat this month, as the rare 'Devil Comet' becomes visible in Australian skies for the first time in 70 years. The comet, which is larger than Mount Everest, will be visible to the naked eye in Australia for a short period in the early hours of April 22.

Comet 12/P Pons-Brooks, earned the nickname 'Devil' or 'Mother of Dragons' due to its horned tail. The best time to observe the comet will be before sunrise, when it will appear as a green, fuzzy dot. The comet can be located in the sky by finding Venus, which burns brightest before dawn, and looking below it in a line between the sun.

The comet's visibility and brightness will increase as it gets closer to the sun, due to the increased release of gas from its surface. While it will be possible to see the comet with the naked eye from clear skies, using binoculars will enhance the viewing experience significantly.

Those with more advanced telescopes will have the opportunity to observe the comet over the weeks following its initial visibility as it approaches the sun before moving back into the distant parts of the solar system.

The comet's unique horns are understood to be the result of cryo-volcanic eruptions of ice that occur as it heats up near the sun it brightens, creating visible tails of gas, dust, and ice that accompany the comet's main tail. It has been visible in the Northern Hemisphere since mid-March but was not observable in the Southern Hemisphere due to its position below the horizon.

Venus is the bright 'star' in the morning sky — if you can see where Venus is, look below, and the comet will be somewhere in that line between the sun and Venus. If you're in a dark spot, you should be able to see it with your naked eye. But if you have a pair of binoculars, even small ones, it will make it great.

Did ET help Build The Pyramids? 

Short answer NO! The question is ridiculous and based on supposition. Why introduce one mystery to solve another? There's no credible evidence supporting the theory that extraterrestrials built the pyramids. The precision in alignment can be attributed to the advanced engineering skills of the ancient Egyptians, not alien intervention.

The pyramids served as monumental tombs for pharaohs, housing their remains and treasures. They were designed to ensure a smooth transition to the afterlife, reflecting the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt.

The pyramids were constructed during the Old Kingdom period, with the Great Pyramid of Giza completed around 2560 BCE. The specifications reflect the architectural and engineering advancements of the time, not a mysterious ancient origin. In simple terms, the pyramids were built by skilled Egyptians as grand tombs for pharaohs, and their precise alignment and age are a testament to the capabilities of the ancient civilization without involving extraterrestrial elements.

The construction of the pyramids likely involved a large labour force of skilled and unskilled workers, including architects, engineers, and labourers. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of workers were involved. Stones for the pyramids were quarried locally, and the workers likely used copper tools to extract and shape the limestone and granite blocks. The use of wooden sledges and lubrication with water or wet sand aided transportation.

A straight or zigzagging ramp system was likely employed to move the massive stones to higher levels during construction. This could have been constructed using mudbrick, limestone chippings, or other materials. The precision in aligning the pyramid's edges and the consistent size of the stones indicate advanced planning and measuring techniques. The Egyptians may have used simple leveling instruments like plumb bobs and sighting rods.

Efficient organization and project management were essential. Evidence suggests that workers lived in nearby settlements, and the construction process involved a well-coordinated effort, possibly under the oversight of skilled overseers.

The mortar used in constructing the pyramids is a mix of lime, gypsum, and water. Recent studies suggest this mortar played a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity of the pyramids over the centuries. These points combine to showcase the practical aspects and engineering ingenuity behind the construction of the Egyptian pyramids.

his overly speculative book, 'Chariots of the Gods' Erich von Däniken made misleading claims of extra-terrestrial involvement in the pyramid's construction. It's ridiculous and unscientific to invoke one mystery to solve another. His recent admissions of falsifying a number of the 'facts' in his book show he twists or ignores archaeological findings. He sees mysteries where experts see ingenuity.

The core argument that aliens built the pyramids lacks supporting evidence. Critics point out that von Däniken focuses on unusual features while ignoring well-understood aspects of pyramid construction. This creates a misleading picture. Ancient civilizations, like Egypt, were capable of remarkable feats without alien intervention.

But there is another aspect to this pyramid business that must be mentioned, and it's weird, to say the least! There's documented research on experiments with objects placed specifically at 1/3 base height inside pyramid models, reflecting the location of the King's Chamber. Among these assumed properties are the ability to preserve foods, sharpen or maintain the sharpness of razor blades, etc. It's important to be critical of information found online about pyramids and energy.

Using Good Ole Binoculars for Astronomy 

In the vast expanse of the night sky lies a realm of wonders awaiting discovery. Regardless of whether you're a seasoned astronomer or a curious child eager for knowledge, binoculars emerge as an accessible portal to the cosmos. These versatile optical instruments not only afford a clearer view of celestial objects but also serve as an excellent starting point for young stargazers embarking on their cosmic journey.

Binoculars present several advantages over telescopes, especially for beginners and children. They are lightweight, portable, and easy to handle, making them less intimidating than telescopes. Additionally, their affordability renders them accessible to families on a budget or those uncertain about long-term astronomical pursuits. Their wider field of view compared to telescopes facilitates easier location of celestial objects.

Key factors to consider when selecting binoculars for astronomy include aperture, magnification, durability, and weight. Aperture, determining the light-gathering capacity, is crucial for observing faint celestial objects like distant galaxies and nebulae. Opting for a moderate magnification reduces image shakiness caused by hand tremors and atmospheric turbulence. Durability features, such as water-resistant or waterproof designs, ensure longevity, especially during outdoor activities. Lightweight and compact models are preferable, particularly for children, enhancing handling and portability.

7x50 and 10x50 binoculars differ primarily in magnification and field of view. The "7x" and "10x" denote magnification, with 10x providing stronger magnification than 7x. In astronomy, 7x50 offers wider field of view, making it easier to locate objects in the sky and reducing image shake. However, 10x50 provides greater detail due to higher magnification. Beginners often prefer 7x50 for its ease of use, while experienced observers may opt for 10x50 for finer observations despite a narrower field.

With binoculars in hand, exploring the night sky becomes a thrilling adventure. Start by familiarizing yourself with prominent constellations, stars, and planets visible in your area using smartphone apps or online resources. Begin your observations with the Moon, marvelling at its craters, mountains, and lunar seas across different lunar phases. Binoculars also offer impressive views of planets within our solar system, including Jupiter's moons, Saturn's rings, and the phases of Venus. Dive deeper into the cosmos by exploring star clusters and nebulae beyond our solar system.

Introducing children to astronomy at a young age can spark a lifelong interest in science and exploration. Binoculars provide a simple yet powerful tool for fostering curiosity and wonder about the universe. Encourage kids to ask questions, explore at their own pace, and share their observations with family and friends.

Consider joining my local astronomy group to enhance your learning experience and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Remember, the joy of discovering the cosmos is not just about what you see through the lenses of binoculars but also about the sense of awe and wonder it instils in the hearts and minds of those who gaze up at the night sky.

Binoculars offer a gateway to the wonders of the universe for both seasoned astronomers and budding stargazers alike. With their simplicity, affordability, and versatility, they make an excellent choice for exploring the night sky and igniting a passion for astronomy in kids of all ages. So, grab your binoculars, step outside, and prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey through the cosmos. Happy stargazing!

SpaceX's Starship will go interstellar someday, Elon Musk says 

SpaceX's Starship megarocket could eventually live up to its bold name. A future iteration of Starship, which conducted its third-ever test flight last week, will go interstellar, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.

"This Starship is designed to traverse our entire solar system and beyond to the cloud of objects surrounding us. A future Starship, much larger and more advanced, will travel to other star systems," Musk said via X early Monday morning (March 18).  Starship consists of two stainless-steel elements: a huge first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship, or just Ship.

Both of these vehicles are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable, and both are powered by SpaceX's next-gen Raptor engine — 33 for Super Heavy and six for Ship.

When stacked, Starship stands about 400 feet (122 m) tall. It's the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, capable of carrying up to 165 tons (150 metric tons) to Earth orbit in its reusable configuration. For comparison, SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket has a maximum payload capacity of about 25 tons (23 metric tons). 

SpaceX sees Starship helping humanity settle the moon and Mars. NASA buys into this vision: The agency selected Starship to be the first crewed lunar lander for its Artemis program. If all goes according to plan, Starship will put astronauts down on the moon for the first time on the Artemis 3 mission, which is tentatively scheduled to lift off in September 2026.

A lot more work, and many more test flights, will be needed to get Starship ready to carry astronauts in deep space. And getting an interstellar version up and running will require a far bigger leap — one that it's tough to imagine today.

Humanity is nowhere near developing a spacecraft that can travel between the stars on a reasonable timescale; the distances are just so intimidatingly huge. For example, the nearest star to our sun, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, lies 4.2 light-years away. That's about 25 trillion miles (40 trillion kilometers). It would take a probe powered by conventional rocket propulsion tens of thousands of years to cover that exotic ground.

Researchers have ideas about how to make the journey more feasible. The Breakthrough Starshot initiative, for instance, is working on a system that would accelerate sailcraft to 20% the speed of light using super-powerful ground-based lasers. Such vehicles could reach Proxima Centauri just 20 years or so after liftoff, if everything works out.

That's a very big "if." And the Breakthrough Starshot craft would be tiny, with bodies about the size of a postage stamp. Developing an interstellar craft big enough to carry people would be a much taller order.

That's apparently what Musk has in mind, given that this future interstellar Starship will be "much larger" than the current behemoth. You and I probably won't be around to see that future craft fly, if it ever does; Breakthrough Starshot, which was announced in 2016, has been eyeing a possible debut launch in the 2030s or 2040s, and even that timeline may be ambitious.

How Big Is Space?

The scale of the cosmos exceeds the bounds of human comprehension. But that doesn't mean the universe is beyond our understanding. Space is big. That's why we call it space. But how big is "big"?

We make it easier on ourselves by using huge units to measure distance, such as a light-year, the distance travelled in a year by light—the fastest thing in the universe. One way to help you grasp this scale is to take it step by step. The moon is the closest astronomical object to at about 380,000 km from Earth. Nearly 30 Earths could fit side-by-side over that distance! And that's the closest heavenly body.

The sun is about 400 times farther away from us than the moon, 150 million km. How far is that? If you could pave a road between Earth and the sun, at highway speeds, it would take you about 170 years to drive there. Better pack a lunch. A commercial jet would be better— it would take a mere 17 years. These are some of the hardest things to grasp! We just aint built to think like this!

Let's consider the separation between objects in terms of their size. For example, the sun is 1.4 million km wide. The nearest star system to the sun is Alpha Centauri, which is 41 trillion km away. If we divide the two numbers, Alpha Centauri is about 30 million "suns" away.

Stars are very small compared to the distance between them. That's also why we use light-years to measure these distances. A light year is the distance a beam of light travels in one year, 10 trillion kms! It's fast too. Light will go round the world 7 times in one second!

One of our closest stars, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light-years away, or a little over four times 10 trillion kilometres! The centre of the Milky Way is 26,000 light-years away, and our Milky Way galaxy itself is a flattish disc some 120,000 light-years across. The nearest big galaxy to the Milky Way is Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light years from us. Are you still with me?

The universe is 13.8 billion years old, so you might think the most distant objects we can see are roughly that distance away in light-years. But the cosmos is expanding, and in the time it's taken for the light from distant objects to reach us, that expansion has swept them farther from us. Because of this, the observable universe is estimated to be more like 90 or so billion light-years across!

After all that, I'll let you in on a secret: even astronomers can't truly grasp these scales. We work with them and we can do the math and physics with them, but our ape brain still struggles to comprehend even the distance to the moon—and the universe is 2 million trillion times bigger than that. So yeah, space is big.

If you're feeling very, very small right now it's OK. These scales can seem crushing. But I'll leave you with this: while the cosmos is immense beyond what we can grasp, using math and physics and our brain, we can actually understand it. And that makes us pretty big, too.

Autumn Skies: A Sparkling Spectacle

It's only a few weeks to Autumn, and the skies are already putting on a dazzling show. I love sky gazing this time of year for one main reason: it's finally comfortable outside! No more sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold, just perfect stargazing weather. You can stay out late at night and watch the stars rise majestically in the east, their westward trek unfolding over just a few hours. It's like a celestial parade that's been playing out for millennia.

Speaking of ancient times, did you know that astronomy is the oldest of human sciences, yet also the newest? Most of what we know about the universe has been discovered in recent times. So, why do constellations matter? Well, it's all about history. We owe our understanding of the night sky to ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans, who saw patterns in the stars and named them.

Have you ever stretched out on a blanket on a crisp autumn night and talked about the stars and constellations? It's a timeless human experience! While most of us are familiar with the twelve zodiac constellations, there are actually 88 official constellations recognized by astronomers. Interestingly, no new constellations have been officially added for centuries!

These constellations are our celestial map, the fixed points in the ever-changing night sky. We use them to track the movements of planets, predict meteor showers, and even navigate. Many recurring meteor showers, like the Perseids and Geminids, are named after constellations.

Want to find your way around the starry expanse? Download an app like Sky Safari or Google Sky Map for a real-time view of the constellations, complete with fascinating details. Just hold your phone or tablet to the sky, and it will show you all the constellations, planets, and stars visible from your location.

Speaking of stars, where do they all go during the day? They don't disappear, of course; they're simply outshined by the bright sun. It's like watching a fireworks show during the day – the dazzling colours are still there, but they're overwhelmed by the sunlight.

Remember how I mentioned the worst time to view the moon is when it's full? Well, this weekend is the perfect time because it's in its half phase. The bright half is now on the left side, towards the east, catching the rays of the dawning sun. At this "last quarter" phase, the moon is actually ahead of Earth in our orbit around the sun. So, when you see it in the sky, imagine that 3½ hours later, Earth will be occupying the same spot in space!

The moon's phases are caused by its dance around Earth. As the moon revolves around our planet, different parts of its surface are bathed in sunlight, creating the familiar cycle from full moon to new moon. This entire cycle takes about 29.5 days, the time it takes the moon to complete one orbit around Earth.

Stargazing with apps has become increasingly popular, thanks to the convenience of technology and the wealth of information available at our fingertips. Here are some astronomy apps that enhance the stargazing experience:

1. SkyView: Explore the Universe

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: SkyView uses augmented reality (AR) to overlay constellations, stars, and planets on your device's camera view. Simply point your device at the sky, and the app will identify celestial objects in real-time. It also provides information about stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

2. Star Walk 2

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: Star Walk 2 is a user-friendly app that offers real-time tracking of stars, planets, and constellations. It includes a time machine feature, allowing users to explore the night sky at different times in the past or future. The app also provides detailed information about celestial objects and upcoming astronomical events.

3. SkySafari

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: SkySafari is a powerful astronomy app suitable for both beginners and experienced stargazers. It offers a comprehensive database of stars, planets, and deep-sky objects. The app includes telescope control functionality for compatible devices, allowing users to point their telescope at specific celestial targets.

4. Night Sky

• Platform: iOS

• Features: Night Sky is another app that utilizes AR to display an interactive map of the night sky. It provides information on stars, planets, satellites, and constellations. The app also includes a time-lapse feature, allowing users to see how the night sky changes over time.

5. NASA App

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: The official NASA app offers a wealth of information about space exploration, including images, videos, and news. It also provides real-time tracking of the International Space Station (ISS) and other satellites. The app is an excellent resource for staying updated on the latest space missions and discoveries.

6. Heavens-Above

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: Heavens-Above is a practical app for tracking satellites, including the ISS and other man-made objects orbiting the Earth. It provides precise pass predictions for your location, making it easy to spot satellites during stargazing sessions.

7. SkyWiki

• Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: SkyWiki is an educational app that combines stargazing with informative content. It includes an extensive celestial object database, and users can learn about stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomena through interactive visualizations.

8. Stellarium • Platform: iOS, Android

• Features: Stellarium is a free and open-source planetarium software that provides a realistic 3D view of the night sky. It can display stars, constellations, planets, and other celestial objects, as well as simulate astronomical events. 

***When choosing an astronomy app, consider your level of expertise and specific interests. Many of these apps offer free versions with essential features, while premium versions unlock additional functionalities. Experiment with a few to find the one that best suits your stargazing preferences.

Ultimately, whether you see the stars as celestial data points or celestial storytellers, remember, they hold the power to ignite both scientific inquiry and personal wonder. So, the next time you gaze at the night sky, let your curiosity soar, but remember, the true magic lies not in predicting your future, but in understanding the incredible reality of our universe.

'ASTRO DAVE' RENEKE - A Personal Perspective

I've often been asked what I do, where I've been and what sort of activities I've engaged in throughout my 50 years involvement in astronomy and space. Here is an interview i did with Delving with Des Kennedy on Rhema 99.9 recently. 

David Reneke, a highly regarded Australian amateur astronomer and lecturer with over 50 years of experience, has established himself as a prominent figure in the field of astronomy. With affiliations to leading global astronomical institutions, David serves as the Editor for Australia's Astro-Space News Magazine and has previously held key editorial roles with Sky & Space Magazine and Australasian Science magazine.

His extensive background includes teaching astronomy at the college level, being a featured speaker at astronomy conventions across Australia, and contributing as a science correspondent for both ABC and commercial radio stations. David's weekly radio interviews, reaching around 3 million listeners, cover the latest developments in astronomy and space exploration.

As a media personality, David's presence extends to regional, national, and international TV, with appearances on prominent platforms such as Good Morning America, American MSNBC news, the BBC, and Sky News in Australia. His own radio program has earned him major Australasian awards for outstanding service.

David is recognized for his engaging and unique style of presenting astronomy and space discovery, having entertained and educated large audiences throughout Australia. In addition to his presentations, he produces educational materials for beginners and runs a popular radio program in Hastings, NSW, with a substantial following and multiple awards for his radio presentations.

In 2004, David initiated the 'Astronomy Outreach' program, touring primary and secondary schools in NSW to provide an interactive astronomy and space education experience. Sponsored by Tasco Australia, Austar, and Discovery Science channel, the program donated telescopes and grants to schools during a special tour in 2009, contributing to the promotion of astronomy education in Australia. BELOW Is the recorded interview  


Many thanks to Peter and the crew at ASTRO ANARCHY Queensland. A New business with the amateur astronomer firmly in mind.  Astro Anarchy has the experience, the stock and the knowledge to set up the first timer, to assist in the development of our hobby for the experienced observer OR cater to any other size need or desire in the field of amateur astronomy. 

ATRO ANARCHY AS OUR SPONSOR: My business partner Peter Davies and I have set up a new Astro Tourism business focusing on the recently 'Dark Sky Town' accredited to Norfolk Island. We call it 'Norfolk Island STARGAZING'. When approached, Pete from Astro Anarchy had no hesitation in organizing and supplying all our Telescopes, Binoculars and associated gear to get started. Nothing was any trouble allowing us more than enough time to set up and become fully operational. He and he and his business come highly recommended for anyone wanting any astronomical gear in Australia.

Web:    Sales:   Phone: 0412 085 224

**Leave a message or comments on this website or any of the stories in box below: OR Email me direct

NB/ Please Include Your Name and Email address If You Require An Answer.

'Astro Dave' Is Radio-Active 

Heard On DOZENS Of Stations Weekly - CLICK for past interviews