The Glare of the Southern Sky
Why is stargazing better in the Southern hemisphere?!
Southern hemisphere skies offer dazzling spectacles for night viewing, some of which cannot be seen from the Northern hemisphere. As the sun sets and darkness descends, a number of different features become visible in the sky: thousands of stars, the moon, planets, faint hazy patches of light and dusty dark regions.
The astronomer Bart Bok used to say: “The Southern Hemisphere holds all the good stuff.” He was probably referring to the fact that the Southern Hemisphere claims the three brightest stars of the night sky: Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri; the largest diffuse nebula, the largest dark nebula and a Milky Way bright enough, like an open brilliant bruise, and best seen during the winter.
Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, are called “The Pointers”, because an imaginary line between the two stars points towards the constellation Crux (the Southern Cross). Crux is the smallest of all 88 constellations but one of the most distinctive. Constellations like Sagittarius and Scorpius are best seen in the Southern Hemisphere; the latter lies within the center of the Milky Way, high in Nkwichi’s sky.
The classic example: Orion, the hunter, is not proudly standing on his feet, but rather doing a cartwheel. Also, the brave lion from the constellation Leo looks more like an upside-down turtle, or maybe a magical lamp. So, more creativity is required of us Africans, South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and other lucky inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere.
Nkwichi is perfect for stargazing, with no light pollution for many miles around; there are a variety of perfect places to wonder under the stars. And because here at Nkwichi, we take these things very serious, you can literally dream under a canopy of starlight all night in Nkwichi’s unique Star Bed.
As the first flickering of an African night sky heralds a gallery of stars, you can also discover the magic of the Lake of Stars through other activities. Sundowners with the first flaming of twilight, romantic dinners at the beach, or discovering the universe’s secrets through the lens of a telescope.
“For the celestial bodies first the Sun
A mighty sphere he framed, unlightsome first,
Though of Ethereal mould: then formed the Moon
Globose, and very magnitude of stars,
And sowed with stars the heaven thick as a field.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost; Book VII, 354 -358 (1667)
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With no light pollution for many miles around, Nkwichi’s beach is perfect for stargazing. Gazing at the stars while sitting around a campfire inevitably leads to everybody sharing stories. This is a story that was told that I can not help but sharing with you.
Words cannot express what a wonderful time we had at Nkwichi. Thank you to everyone who made our stay extra special.. Going to miss the squeaking of the sand under our feet.
Robyn & Cerian, South Africa, October 2014