Is there anything as profound and mind boggling as an evening with your mates stargazing? Hanging out in your sleeping bags, open-air, sipping a brew and pointing out shooting stars?

As you creep into the late hours of the night, you start thinking about how you and the stars are made out of the same stuff, and suddenly your work worries seem a mile away. We are the universe observing itself! Cheers to that, Carl Sagan.

Stargazing Is In Our Bones

Humans have been gazing skywards for tens of thousands of years. In that time, we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge about our place in the Universe, and crafted stories to connect what we see in the sky with what’s happening here on our planet.

Stargazing is a natural human pastime, so trust your spirit and turn your eyes to the sky!


This article’s thanks to Wild Turkey and their delicious new range of Discovery Series premixes.

Flat Earthers Look Away: How The Sky Changes Throughout The Year

As the Earth moves around the sun our vantage point shifts, so the stars and planets won’t appear in the same spot in the sky throughout the year, or even throughout a single night of stargazing! It’s all relative, bro. 

Unfortunately this means you can’t just memorise the location of stars and planets in the sky. But fear not, there’s an app for that! But first… 

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meteors: What’s The Best Weather For Stargazing?

The first step to identifying stars and planets is to be able to see them. Here’s the conditions that work best:

  • You’re going to want a clear night sky (this is more likely with cold temperatures)
  • Head away from the city lights, because light pollution will literally stop you from seeing anything! 
  • Similarly, the bright glow of the moon is going to wash out a lot of stuff – so anytime closer to a New Moon is better


Pat suraseang, astrophotography, stars, stargazing

A clear night like this will do just fine! | @patsuraseang

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a planet, it’s a satellite, it’s a meteor, oh god are there even any stars up there?

There’s heaps to see up there if you know what you’re looking for! Here are some tips for making sense of it all.


Not everything shining up above is a star. If it’s not twinkling, it might be a planet!

  • Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible to the naked eye if you know where to look.
  • You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to see Uranus and Neptune 
  • You can look up which planets will be visible from your location before you head out, and where they should be in the sky at what time.



Satellites orbit the Earth constantly and there are over 6000 of them up there.

  • Satellites appear as a fast, consistent light streaking across the sky. They’ll be faster than a plane!
  • The big cheese, the International Space Station, orbits Earth every 90 minutes! 
  • The tell-tale sign that it’s a satellite and not a ‘shooting star’ is that the streak doesn’t fade out like that of meteors.
  • It’s super easy to track the ISS and other satellites with an app (we’ve listed the best stargazing apps below)
  • Keep an eye out for the Starlink ‘train’ of satellites that SpaceX is using to provide internet to remote locations. It looks like a series of evenly spaced satellites moving together.



Ah, the infamous shooting star. But did you know that they’re actually meteors?

  • Meteors range in size from a tiny grain to up to a metre across!
  • As the meteor burns up in our atmosphere, it causes a visible streak of light
  • The colour varies depending on what the meteor is made up of: iron will produce a yellow colour, but magnesium produces a blue-green colour
  • Meteor showers are a great time to head out with almost guaranteed sightings



Finally – actual stars! 

  • Stars are so much further away than everything else that they seem to twinkle
  • Since the speed of light isn’t instantaneous (just really bloody quick), you’re actually looking back in time when you look at the stars…
  • Our sun is our closest star and light from there takes about 8 minutes and 20 seconds to get here
  • But the next closest star is Proxima Centauri and it’s 4.3 light-years away. Yep, that light is 4.3 years old when it hits your eyeballs.


Star Fact ✴

The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is 8.6 light years away! A light year is the distance light travels in one year, a cool 9.5 trillion kilometres. Sirius is considered to be ‘fairly close’ to Earth.

The Best Apps For Stargazing

Alright. You’re rugged up, the sky’s clear, your mates are here, you’ve got your favourite beverage in hand and you can tell a star and a planet apart. We’re off to a good start! 

But unless you’re heading out with an astro-nerd, you’re probably going to need some apps to actually identify the constellations. 


My favourite: Stellarium

Stellarium uses augmented reality to clue you in on exactly what you’re seeing – simply direct your phone at the sky and it’ll point out what you’re looking at. Just make sure it’s all downloaded ahead of time, some of the best stargazing spots don’t have reception!


  • Red-light mode spares your night vision
  • You can toggle between various Star Lores – from Aztec and Lakota to Maori and Polynesian.
  • Their open software desktop version also includes lore from the Australian Indigenous groups the Boorong (NW Victoria) and the Kamilaroi (Central Eastern Coast)
  • There’s an option to show satellites
  • Similar alternative apps include SkySafari, SkyWalk and SkyView (great creative naming guys)


Other Apps

  • Light Pollution Map helps you find dark skies nearby and enhance your stargazing experience, it’s also super cool to play around on
  • ISS Live Now notifies you when the ISS is going to pass over your location. That way you get to be the fun person who ruins everyone’s ‘Look, a meteor!’ with ‘Nope, it’s just the ISS!’ The app also lets you stream live footage from the ISS so you can watch the astronauts as they watch you… 
jack brookes, astrophotography, stargazing, van, campfire,

Get far away from the city to really supercharge your stargazing! | @jackjbrookes

It All Looks Like A Stick To Me: Constellations In The Southern Hemisphere

Okay, you didn’t download an app ‘cause you want to do this the hard/pure way. Let’s do this!


Southern Cross

The Southern Cross is the most well-known and distinctive constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. As the name suggests, it can be used to find South!

At the risk of stating the obvious, you’re looking for a cross in the sky. It’s kind of kite shaped and there’s an (often forgotten) fifth star between the right and bottom points.

There are also two bright ‘pointer stars’ pointing in a line towards it. So, if you’ve found a cross with two bright stars nearby, you’ve got it! Would make a neat tattoo eh?


Canis Major

The brightest star in the sky is Sirius and it’s actually a binary star (it’s made up of two orbiting stars which appear as a single star from our perspective). 

It’s also known as the ‘Dog Star’ because it forms part of the constellation Canis Major (aka Big Dog). Sirius connects the body and head of the dog.


Star Fact ✴

The expression ‘dog days’ (think Florence + the Machine’s The Dog Days are Over) comes from the fact that the Dog Star’s appearance in the night sky signalled the beginning of hot summers in Ancient Greece and the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt.

patrick tangye, stargazing, astrophotography, campfire, friends

Constellations are actually easier to see in real life! | @patricktangyephotography


Canis Major is said to be chasing the hunter Orion, best identified by his belt. Orion’s belt consists of three equally spaced stars in a straight line. Once you’ve got his belt, you should be able to fill in his top and bottom halves, as well as his shield.


Canis Minor

While the Big Dog hangs out near Orion’s feet, the Little Dog is higher up, closer to Orion’s head. 



In Australia Scorpius is visible May through November. It’s decently easy to spot because the tail is made up of very closely spaced stars and it actually looks like a scorpion.



The objectively best star sign, Libra, can be found next to Scorpius. Libra is associated with justice, and the constellation looks like a set of scales near the head of Scorpius.


Star Fact ✴

The constellation we now know as Libra used to be the claws of Scorpius. Maybe this explains why Libra and Scorpio aren’t the greatest match?

Personally, I find the best way to find the constellations is to start with Sirius (by far and away the brightest star in the sky) and then use the myths to guide me around. 

After all, the reason people came up with the stories in the first place was to relate each constellation to another and make it easier to find them!

Indigenous Australian Astronomy

Indigenous Australians have a long and successful tradition of observing the stars, with evidence of oral traditions related to red-giant variable stars which pre-date the European discovery of variable stars (variable stars are stars whose brightness appears to change, sometimes over decades).

There are a number of shared constellations across Indigenous Australian astronomies, notably the emu, which encapsulates the Milky Way. If you found the Greek constellations a little abstract, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the Milky Way does indeed look like an emu, minimal squinting required! 

Two awesome contemporary Indigenous astronomers to check out and learn more are Karlie Noon and Kirsten Banks. And don’t forget, you can use Stellarium to see constellations in the Boorong and Kamilaroi lore!

Alrighty got all that? Now all that’s left is to get out there! Pack your warm clothes, fill the esky (shoutout to Wild Turkey for making this article possible) and gaze into the expanse above.


This article’s thanks to Wild Turkey and their delicious new range of Discovery Series premixes.

Feature photo by @lachlan_gardiner