This is a night out in August at the Melbourne Observatory, for some stargazing. The historic Old Melbourne Observatory is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. We heard that the planet Saturn can be seen in the winter night sky, this time of the year. The catch was, we need to know where in the sky to look and the use of a telescope, a very large powerful telescope.
So we joined a winter night guided tour of the Melbourne Observatory, for a chance to see the stars and planets of the southern sky. Saturn being the highlight for the night. The winter night tour starts from June to August, so we were very much at the tail end of the season.
This was also our very first time inside the observatory. As it turn out, the very first time for many who turn up on the night too.
There were about twelve of us that night, from children as young as ten to the mature wise ones. We were divided into two groups, each group going with their respective guides to one of the two observatory on site.
As with all tours, we were treated with some history about the observatory; how the observatory was and how it is now.
Historically, Melbourne Observatory was founded in 1862 to serve as a scientific research institution with the purpose of establishing correct Melbourne time. As the reliability and accuracy of time improved, kept accurate through observations of the stars using a transit telescope, the role of the Melbourne Observatory moved to astrophysics and projects, such as mapping the southern sky.
Today, the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne manages the site of the Melbourne Observatory and works closely with the Astronomical Society of Victoria to maintain this historical site.
As very much evident to us, though the telescopes are old and ancient, they still do work very well. We were fortunate that we got clear night skies most of the time, so we got to see Saturn and a number of star clusters.
Overall, it was an interesting night out. We got to see the night skies through a new perspective and an opportunity to meet other people, who are also interested in the celestrial stars.