Desert Spring
Star Party

at the
Little Desert Nature Lodge

previous VicSouths

2003   2004   2005   2006   2007   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014   2015   2016   2017   2018   2019   2020  


This very first VicSouth in 2003 was organised at short notice so the astronomers were vastly outnumbered by the Lodge's other guests. Nonetheless, the few of us who did get there were very pleased with the venue and its dark skies, so we decided immediately to (1) make VicSouth an annual event in future, and (2) take over the entire Lodge for each VicSouth and make it even darker on the outside.

the front gate The entrance to Little Desert Nature Lodge.

friday evening Setting up on the Lodge lawn on Friday evening.

crux Crux (upside down) at about 11pm on Saturday night. Canon Powershot A40 on tripod, 15 second exposure, approximately equivalent to the naked-eye view. Centre of Crux is only ~7 degrees above the horizon!

wildflowers Some wildflowers.

meade + emu One of the locals ignoring a telescope... :-)

campground The campground on Sunday afternoon.


About 90 people made it to this second VicSouth, and over 20 of them stayed for this year's optional third night. Which was just as well because the third night was the only really clear night! Three nights became the standard duration for later VicSouths, with the occasional four-nighter if VicSouth occurred just before the Melbourne Cup (public holiday in Vic).
Also for the first time this year we had pre-booked the entire Lodge. This made it much easier to enforce light pollution control, and ensured that our nocturnal activities didn't bother other guests.

Australian Sky and Telescope

A four page report of the 2004 VicSouth was published in the February 2005 Australian Sky and Telescope magazine; and we've got their permission to publish these medium-resolution page scans of the article.

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4


Nearly 100 people came to VicSouth 2005 and many stayed for all three nights. Friday night was totally clear for the public session (and afterwards), enabling 150+ visitors to view the night sky through dozens of telescopes. Saturday night was also clear -- except for one inconsiderate jet pilot who put a contrail over us at sunset! Sunday night was clouded out, enabling everyone to watch the movie and have an early bedtime before their long drive home on Monday.

Sky and Space

A three page pictorial of VicSouth 2005 appeared in the January 2006 Sky and Space magazine; and they have sent us a downloadable copy of the article. Thanks guys.

And now some pictures by Perry Vlahos, with commentary by the webmaster.. ;-)

*Part of the main lawn at the Lodge -- before we infested it with telescopes and astronomers!

*Another tranquil scene near the Lodge....

*and then the astronomers came....

*with some little telescopes,...


*some not-so-little telescopes,...


*and some expensive telescopes.

*Plus lots of pairs of binoculars.

*During the day some of us met the Lodge residents,...

*...including their renowned Malleefowls.

*Some of us also had a look at the sun in hydrogen-alpha light,...

*most of us went to the workshops and the swap meet,

*and a few of us processed our previous night's observations.

*The finalists in the unofficial Who Needs To Dress Well When I'm Wearing These Cool Sunglasses? Contest.


The Friday night was clear and dark (except for the thousands of brilliant stars) and a great time was had by all. Especially by those of us who stayed up until moonrise. Or beyond. And a thank you to everyone who helped with our very successful public viewing session too.
Thursday night, for the few of us who came early, wasn't bad either. Except for the other non-astronomical Lodge guests who were afraid of the dark!
Saturday night began with rain and then progressed to a spectacular lightning show. Fortunately it was a warm night so most of us sat under the verandahs and watched the action. Sunday night began well, but after a few hours the smoke from large bushfires far upwind began to reach us. The exceptionally dry winter of 2006 had left vast areas primed to burn; and Saturday's lightning ignited numerous fires.

Download (70MB wmv) a video slideshow of VicSouth 2006 by Leon Geljon.

*Hmmm....this looks like an example of I Forgot My Tripod....

*How did Perry Vlahos persuade dozens of the locals to sit on the grass in the twilight?

*Oooh...I want one of them for xmas, and two of those, and that whatever-it-is....

*The visual observing techniques workshop drew a big crowd.

*A strike during Saturday night's spectacular lightning show. Several bushfires, some of which were far upwind from us in South Australia's Mallee region, were started that night. The smoke from the SA fires produced a spectacular sunset on Sunday, but slowly blotted out the stars on Sunday night.

*The observing field getting busy on Friday evening.

*Mike with his telescope.

*Paul with his 125mm binoculars. ASSA members reading this should note the presence of cloudless twilight sky above him.

*Angela and Michael with their telescopes.

*Petra with her telescope.
A few seconds after your webmaster showed Petra this photo he suffered horrible injuries...

*"...Mum, can I look through ALL of these telescopes??"

*Mick's big one.

*Graeme admiring Tim's colour coordinated t-shirt, shorts, wristwatch, and telescope.

*Another black telescope.

*George's big one.

*And finally, David's purple one. Who cares what colour the dewshield is? You can't see it in the dark anyway....


Download Leon Geljon's video slideshow of his VicSouth 2007 trip (79MB wmv).

Three clear nights for VicSouth 2007. And Thursday night was clear too. And the daytime weather wasn't bad either...although many of us slept through it!

*Dario does a dust-on-mirrors check of his big one.

*Taurus and the Pleiades rise over the main observing area on Friday evening.

*Crux and Carina above the trees, early Saturday morning. And the only nocturnal cloud seen all weekend! Canon Powershot A530 on tripod, 15 second exposure.

*Nina and Leon observing the sun with the aid of a heliostat and....

*...a Coronado hydrogen-alpha solar telescope on a tripod.

*Petra won the Sky and Space subscription door prize.

*Emma's big one.

*Lyn's not-quite-so-big one.

Too shy to wear their name tags?

*Getting ready for another night...

*Ray revealed a pile of gadgetry and Blair just couldn't resist... :-)

*General view of the observing area.

*Saturday twilight mosaic. Canon Powershot A530 on tripod, 15 second exposures.

*Mt Arapiles from Mitre Rock.

*Tiny wildflowers on Mt Arapiles.

*Bandicoot tracks in the sand.


Download Leon Geljon's video slideshow of his VicSouth 2008 trip (105MB wmv).
Download Phil Hart's time-lapse video of Saturday evening at VicSouth 2008 (169MB avi).
Download a time-lapse video of Blair Lade's stars and lightning photos (8MB avi).

*2008 was the first year a few of us walked to the top of Mt Arapiles. And 2008 was also the first year we faced the prospect of an evacuation caused by a bushfire. Fortunately nobody died of exhaustion going up the mountain, and the local firefighters were able to keep the bushfire well away from the Lodge.

*Our route to the top of Mt Arapiles wasn't this difficult....

*Unfortunately the high-altitude winds brought the bushfire smoke back over the Lodge on Saturday afternoon!

*Most of the people made it into this 2008 group photo.

*Getting the telescopes ready, just after sunset.

*Phil used this SLR digital camera to create a time-lapse video of Saturday evening at VicSouth 2008 (169MB avi).

*Nina contemplates a crescent moon paired with Venus, as twilight fades to night.

*Angela tries some weightlifting with an iron meteorite.

*Some of the local inhabitants check out the main observing field.

*Mallee flowers in Little Desert National Park.

*Flowers in Little Desert National Park.


The weather for VicSouth 2009 was exceptionally hot (for November), so many telescopes stayed indoors under the air conditioners during the daytimes. Most of the astronomers joined them there!
Our invited speaker for 2009 was Rob McNaught, who told us of his "life of comets".

a VicSouth 2009 group photo

2009 group photo


Ian and Paul watch Mark put it all together; they could have offered some help!
Linda does all the heavy lifting with the Dob, whilst Darren struggles with those enormous binoculars.
Mark said he had a big one, but how could anyone guess it was 14 inches?
Earth does not only look blue from space.
"...and I have this sneaking suspicion that I've also left something at home!"
Valley Of The Dobs.
Minimalist viewpoint.
View from the lake. All so tranquil in daylight for they only come out at night!
The locals recommend the food at the Little Desert Nature Lodge.
Tim uses big binoculars to check out some a bird's nest.
Phil explains why he needs the same amount of electricity as used by the whole of Nhill.
Russell's scope has all the modern attachments, including a microwave oven near the end.
solar telescopeThere's always someone who likes observing in H-alpha light while wearing sunscreen.

A very public proposal, so it would have been embarrassing if she had said no!


* Using The Force to polar align during the daytime...?
* Curlews.
* Jupiter rises over the gathering astronomers.
* The 2011 group photo.
* Some of the new rooms at the Lodge.
* Telescopes in the twilight, part 1.
* Telescopes in the twilight, part 2.
* Telescopes in the twilight, part 3.
* Not shown: the sun-bleached bones of its previous victims!!!


Held in mid-October, so we could also invade northern Queensland a month later to see its total solar eclipse.

Darren Bellingham's Saturday night aurora photo.

Darren Bellingham's other Saturday night aurora photo.

A low-resolution frame from Greg Walton's time-lapse video of Saturday afternoon through to Sunday sunrise. A totally clear night -- and aurorae too!
(click on this image for the 84MB MP4 public video)

The 2012 group photo.

...and the group photo photographer.


flowers Flowers near Whimpey's Waterhole.

waterhole Looking across Whimpey's Waterhole towards the Lodge.

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) only gets to ~11 degrees above VicSouth's northern horizon. 60 second exposure.

canopus and LMC The Large Magellanic Cloud and Canopus. 60 second exposure, with the same lens as the Andromeda photo above.

The southern Milky Way is circumpolar at VicSouth, but it sometimes gets obscured by (faint) auroral activity. 60 second exposures.

venus and milky way panorama Venus (and Zodiacal Light) against a Milky Way panorama from Aquila to Carina. 120 second exposures.

The International Space Station does a twilight flyover.

arapiles wave erosion Mt Arapiles used to be an island in the sea that formerly filled the Murray Basin. The waves from that vanished sea eroded and undercut the Arapiles cliffs, creating rock benches, wave-smoothed hollows and stacks like the ones shown in this panorama.

cross bedding Large low-angle cross bedding in the coarse Mt Arapiles sandstones.

Venus Trifid and Lagoon nebulae Venus with the Trifid and Lagoon Nebulae. 30 second exposure.


startrails Star trails around the south celestial pole, by Kym Wallis.

Comet PANSTARRS at VicSouth 2014, by Jeff Lusher.

In the campground on the night before VicSouth, by Robert Jenkins.

The Large Magellanic Cloud by Jeff Lusher.

Mars and the Lagoon Nebula by Jeff Lusher.

30 seconds of lightning by Jeff Lusher.


The watcher, by Linda Richmond.

Night sky photos by Darren.

Night sky photos by Darren.

Night sky photos by Darren.

Night sky photos by Darren.


Our prize sponsors for VicSouth 2016 included:


Our prize sponsors for VicSouth 2017 included (alphabetically):

A large prominence in hydrogen-alpha light. Photo taken by a phone camera hand-held to the telescope eyepiece.


Our prize sponsors for VicSouth 2018 included (alphabetically):

observing field The observing field.

observing field at sunset The observing field at sunset.

observing field at sunset The observing field at sunset.

smallest and largest telescopes The smallest and largest telescopes this year.


Our prize sponsors for VicSouth 2019 included (alphabetically):

Also representatives from Bintel, Siderial Trading and Sky-Watcher all attended this year to showcase their products.

dining room The dining room.

donated prizes Donated prizes!

flowers in the Desert Flowers in the Desert.

galaxy lecture Galaxy lecture.


lucky dip at Victor Harbor VicSouth went online-only this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns....and The Great Toilet Paper Drought.