Little Desert Nature Lodge
The VicSouth Desert Spring Star Party is an annual weekend of astronomy, held at the Little Desert Nature Lodge about 16km south of the town of Nhill in western Victoria (Australia).
VicSouth is jointly hosted by the Astronomical Society of Victoria and the Astronomical Society of South Australia, and offers a great weekend of social and astronomical activity as well as some nice observing targets. Begin your night of astronomy in the massed starfields of Sagittarius, Ara, and Scutum. Then journey into the intergalactic realms of Grus, Pavo, Sculptor, Fornax, Eridanus, Aquarius, and the billions of Magellanic suns. Take a peek north at the galaxies of Andromeda and Triangulum too. Then as the night continues, sweep through Orion, Puppis, Canis Major, Vela, Carina and Crux. And, in the hours before dawn, Hydra and Leo.
VicSouth occurs during spring time (to avoid the worst of the cold winter wind & rains), but before the commencement of grain harvesting (to avoid neighbouring farmers' floodlights & clouds of dust). We book the entire Lodge for our use during VicSouth and we implement various measures to keep the observing area dark.
By 9pm on a clear night at this time of year, more than 100 deepsky objects are above the horizon and visible to 7x50 binoculars. The target count is similar at midnight and at 3am. And the naked eye limiting magnitude for stars at zenith can go as faint as 7.0. Check out the many images and videos taken during previous VicSouths. Or download an observing list.
The Lodge is bordered to its south by the Little Desert National Park (brochure), which contains a variety of habitats from swampland to semidesert. Over 600 species of plants and more than 220 species of birds -- many of them endangered species -- have been found within its borders. The Park contains many 4WD tracks and walking trails, and it is bordered or traversed by many public roads. Opportunities abound for hikers, botanists and birdwatchers. The Lodge itself is renowned for its Malleefowl breeding programme, and as a vermin-proof natural sanctuary for native birds and animals.
Mt Arapiles (brochure), about ½ hour drive south of the Lodge, offers world-famous rock climbing. Plus some nice bush walks suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
Also there are the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves about 2 hours drive southwest of the Lodge, and the Grampians National Park about 1½ hours drive southeast.
Astronomical Society of South Australia www.assa.org.au
Astronomical Society of Victoria www.asv.org.au
Little Desert Nature Lodge www.littledesertlodge.com.au
Little Desert National Park brochure (PDF)
Mt Arapiles park brochure (PDF)
Naracoorte Caves National Park http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/sanpr/naracoortecaves/
Parks Victoria (national & state parks in Victoria) www.parkweb.vic.gov.au
Hindmarsh shire council (regional tourism & business information) www.hindmarsh.vic.gov.au
Nhill Tourist Information Centre. Open 7 days, 10am-4pm local time, on the main highway in the centre of town. Phone: (03) 5391 3086.