Cunningham Lookout – Location Directions

Cunningham Lookout is a compact telescope setup area about 40km south of Ipswich along the Cunningham Highway and 3.5km west of Warrill View.  Turn right at Warrill View onto the Rosewood-Warrill View Road.  The entrance track to the lookout (on your left) is half-way up the first hill after departing Warrill View.

It is recommended that you bring a camp chair and table, or something similar, as this site offers zero facilities.  A little comfort, and keeping your gear off the dusty ground and damp grass, is a good thing.

Google Map link:

What3Word map link:

Why are comet heads green?

If you have ever wondered why the heads of comets are green, but their tails are not, wonder no longer!

Check out this research paper published on October 2021 and cease the head-scratching!
Seriously, this is a good read as it answers a very old question…

Finding Telescope Alignment Stars

Frustration often rules when you are just starting to learn the sky and get your new electronic mount set-up and properly aligned.  One source of frustration can be finding, and correctly identifying, specific alignment stars.

Every telescope mount manufacturer seems to use a different list of stars that can be used for an initial 1, 2 or 3-star alignment of their mount.  The names of stars can be another source of frustration as some manufacturers use different star names – many of which are obscure stars you may never have heard of.

However, the SkySafari Planetarium App can help reduce these frustrations.  The app allows you to download a list of all the alignment stars specific to most common mounts – Argo Navis; Celestron; Meade LX200; Orion Intelliscope; Sky Commander; Skywatcher Synscan, and Vixen Starbook.

Once loaded into your device it becomes a simple click, or two, for SkySafari to show you exactly where to find specific alignment stars.

How to Download and use Alignment Stars List in SkySafari

Open SkySafari and click “Observe” on the main menu. Then click “Observing Lists”.

Click “Import from Online Repository”.

Click to select the alignment star list that matches your mount.

The list of alignment stars will now be saved to your SkySafari Observing Lists in your mobile device.

When you are ready to do a mount alignment, open SkySafari and click Observe, then click Observing Lists and your set of alignment stars will be available for you to click on and open (such as for the Skywatcher Synscan).

Once you have clicked a list and opened it, you can sort the list by perhaps star name or magnitude, to make it easier to find desired alignment stars.  Stars that are currently visible are displayed with illuminated text (others are below the horizon).

To find the current location of an alignment star, click its name and then center to place it on the sky map.

The alignment star you are trying to find should now be easy to identify on the app map and in the sky.

Another approach to finding alignment stars is to have SkySafari display all available guide stars for you mount simultaneously on a sky map.

As explained above – click Observe on the main menu and then click Observing Lists.  Open the Skywatcher Synscan Alighnment Stars list, for example, and then click Actions and Settings.

Then click the Highlight Objects button on the top menu of the star list.

Click the x in the top-right to close this screen and display the Star Map.

The star map makes it obvious that SynScan Alignment Stars have been predefined by Skywatcher so that there are multiple “pairs” of stars the required 10 to 30 degrees of seperation for use in a two-star alignment.  The star map makes it very easy to then accurately locate the correct stars in the telescope eyepiece. 

The same procedure can be followed in SkySafari for alignment stars for multiple other brands of telescope mount.

Skywatcher EQ Mount – Setup and Alignment Guide

HERE is a step-by-step guide to setting-up and star-aligning a Skywatcher equatorial mount (such as the AZ EQ5 and AZ EQ6 mounts that use the Synscan hand controller) in the Southern Hemisphere.  When the guide promts you to select alignment stars, please find another blog article on this website with a list of Skywatcher Southern Hemisphere alignment stars sorted by periods of the year.

SkyWatcher Mount – SynScan Alignment Stars

The SkyWatcher mounts such as the AZ EQ6 use a SynScan hand controller to control the mount and complete the initial 1, 2 or 3-star alignment procedure. 

While the SynScan hand controller offers about 100 stars in the southern hemisphere for initial alignment, the user manual does not provide a printed list of stars.  As a result, the star options you can choose from are hidden within the hand controller and not readily available for consideration.  Some parts of the sky may be blocked by clouds, trees or buildings and repeatedly scrolling through star names on the hand controller to find a suitable star can be slow and frustrating.  This list may aid in quickly finding a suitable star (assuming you have a great memory for obscure star names) or checking a star’s suitability in a planetarium app.

The linked PDF document contains a sorted list of all southern hemisphere SynScan alignment stars, in 3-month calendar groups, and 30 degrees or higher in northern sky declination.

Maleny Observatory

Brisbane Astronomical Society now has a designated observatory – Maleny Observatory.

BAS has been conducting dark sky telescope nights at the Maleny Golf Club site for the last five years. During this time our Sunshine Coast BAS members have established an excellent relationship with the golf club, Sunshine Coast Council and other users and stakeholders of the public-land golf club site.

Our Sunshine Coast members have negotiated excellent site facilities for our members, including on-site telescope storage space, external lighting controls and access to clubhouse and associated facilities. This has allowed BAS to conduct many member and public telescope nights and introduced astronomy to thousands of Sunshine Coast residents.

The high level of active astronomical use of the site, and extensive outreach to the general public, has now been recognised by the Astronomical Society of Australia with their designation of Maleny Observatory as Australia’s newest astronomical observatory.

BAS would like thank our Sunshine Coast members, in particular Ken Wishaw and John Waugh, for their efforts in establishing this facility and its observatory designation status. This now creates an excellent basis for advancing amateur astronomy on the Sunshine Coast. To that effect, BAS has just completed a first draft of a Maleny Observatory Strategic Plan which maps out our plans to improve site facilities for members and the public and to expand our community outreach effort.

BAS members are encouraged to attend our upcoming observing nights at the Maleny Observatory.