The Orion Nebula sits south of Orion's Belt in the Milk Way. Picture: Scott van der Linden
The Orion Nebula sits south of Orion's Belt in the Milk Way. Picture: Scott van der Linden

Mackay stargazer shares best tips to explore galaxies

A PHOTOGRAPH taken by a self-proclaimed "nerd" in a Mackay backyard captures the birthplace of baby stars 9000 light-years away from planet Earth.

It is the Trifid Nebula in the constellation of Sagittarius discovered by Charles Messier more than 250 years ago.

Rural View resident Scott van der Linden said his childhood passion for astronomy was reignited in his 30s after discovering telescope prices had dropped.

The Trifid Nebula located 9000 light-years away from Earth in the Sagittarius constellation. Picture: Scott van der Linden
The Trifid Nebula located 9000 light-years away from Earth in the Sagittarius constellation. Picture: Scott van der Linden

He said for $100-$150, anybody could buy a "decent" telescope capable of spotting planets including Venus, Mars, Jupiter and his favourite, Saturn.

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"All the other (planets) look like a ball," Mr Linden said.

"Saturn just looks so cool, you can see the rings going around it and a couple of moons."

Jupiter and Saturn each had about 70 moons, he said.

Scott van der Linden said Saturn rises about 5.50pm over the next few days and will appear as a slightly-yellowish colour to the naked eye. Picture: Scott van der Linden
Scott van der Linden said Saturn rises about 5.50pm over the next few days and will appear as a slightly-yellowish colour to the naked eye. Picture: Scott van der Linden

"One of Saturn's has got an atmosphere and it might have water.

"Jupiter's got one which is icy, another is covered with sulphur and its got volcanoes.

"Jupiter's got four main big moons that are easy to see even with a small telescope."

And right now was the best time of the year to see the two planets from Mackay, Mr Linden said.

"Because they're around our side of the sun at the moment, they're brighter and they actually look bigger."

Scott Van der Linden captured this photograph of the SWAN comet through his telescope. Picture: Contributed.
Scott Van der Linden captured this photograph of the SWAN comet through his telescope. Picture: Contributed.

He said there was also a chance to spot Comet Neowise over the coming weeks.

"Comets are a ball of rock and ice going through the solar system … in close past the sun," Mr Linden said.

Interested skygazers could use smartphone apps like Skyguide and Stellarium to show where constellations, planets and also the International Space Station were located at any given time, he said.

They can also check out the Facebook groups Mackay Skywatchers and Astronomers and Tropical Stargazers.

 

Scott van der Linden's photograph of Earth's moon. Picture: Contributed.
Scott van der Linden's photograph of Earth's moon. Picture: Contributed.

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Scott van der Linden's tips for skygazing over the next few days:

- In the mornings, Jupiter will rise about 5.20am and Saturn about 5.50am in the west and in the east, Mars will rise first, followed by Venus and Earth's moon.

- In the evenings, Mars will rise just after 11pm in the west.


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