Western Australia has an incredible future under the stars, according to Carol Redford, Director of Astrotourism WA. 'There are now 2 billion people on this planet who can't see the Milky Way at night. If WA looks after and protects the night sky, we'll have a very valuable tourism asset for decades maybe even centuries to come.'
Amazing stargazing experiences await you in Western Australia. Astrotourism WA Founder, Carol Redford, has spent over 10 years stargazing and working with passionate amateurs in the astronomy field in Western Australia. Also known as “Galaxy Girl” in astronomy circles, Carol knows how special the WA night sky is. Here's her story...
So, Carol, what's your story?
I was actually born in Three Springs in the mid-west of Western Australia so I'm a country girl right from the start! I lived and worked interstate and overseas for many years and in 1999 I came back to live on the family farm in Gingin. Believe it or not, I don't really have a science background, although I studied Physics, Maths and Chemistry in high school, with my real passion to study Japanese which I did at UWA. After acquiring an interest in marketing, I also completed a post graduate degree in business marketing. After graduating I worked in a variety of different sectors - retail, tourism, education and agriculture. I lived and worked in Queensland's Whitsundays, Japan and England for many years.
Where did you get your inspiration to start up Astrotourism?
While living in Gingin, I and a good friend had the opportunity to purchase the local Public Astronomical Observatory. We ran the business from 2007 to 2012 with public stargazing nights as a major draw card. I'm incredibly proud that we increased the number of visitors from 1,000 to over 5,500 people per year. Over these years I kept looking south to Perth and the artificial light pollution crept closer and closer. We have such a special night sky in WA. In fact, it's a world-class asset that we shouldn't take for granted. These days, you can't see the Milky Way just anywhere anymore.
What’s the best time and places in WA for star gazing?
If you want to stand under the Milky Way and experience that awe-inspiring sight, it's best to go at the time of the New Moon when there's no moonlight in the night sky. There are about 10-12 days per month when moonlight is absent and doesn't affect the darkness of the early evening night sky before midnight. It doesn't matter what season you go stargazing. As long as the night is cloud-free, you'll have a view of the stars.
The Mid West and Wheatbelt regions are ideal locations for stargazing. The air is free of artificial light and air pollution. The air is also dry which makes it better for stargazing. All you have to do is find a place away from light pollution and you'll have all the stars you can handle!
What is it about stargazing that attracts people to this experience?
I think it's the peace, tranquillity and, for me, the connection and understanding that I'm part of something so much bigger. When I stand out under the Milky Way it gives me perspective in life. After all, Earth is just a tiny rock orbiting a tiny star which is one of hundreds of billions of stars in our Galaxy. And our Galaxy is one of about 100 billion in the known Universe! The stargazing effect on the soul and mind is incredible. When we’re connected like that, it’s possible to realise how precious our planet is.
More about Astrotourism WA
Astrotourism WA works towards making sure the night sky is preserved for decades to come so that visitors from around the world can be inspired by the beauty of our Milky Way Galaxy. Country towns are creating special places and protecting dark night skies so you can enjoy stargazing at its best.