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). The location is about halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne so VicSouth attracts large numbers of amateur astronomers from both cities.
VicSouth 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. Zenith SQM measurements are typically 21.8 or darker. 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 of all ages and fitness levels. 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.
LinksLittle Desert Nature Lodge www.littledesertlodge.com.au
Hindmarsh shire council tourism information www.visithindmarsh.com.au
Little Desert National Park brochure (PDF) and website www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/little-desert-national-park
Mt Arapiles-Tooan park brochure (PDF) and website www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/mount-arapiles-tooan-state-park
Naracoorte Caves National Park www.naracoortecaves.sa.gov.au
Parks Victoria (national & state parks in Victoria) www.parks.vic.gov.au