After going on a little deep dive recently into some parts of the Shire of Ashburton that aren’t just Karijini (check it here), we’re excited to return to one of those towns today for a look at its unique position as an Astrotourism hotspot not just in WA, but the world! The clear skies of the Pilbara region, and in particular the coastal town of Onslow, make it a must-visit destination for stargazers and astrophotographers alike.
Along with being one of the few places in the world where you can see the sun and moon both rise over the ocean, next year Onslow will be one of the prime viewing locations for the April 2023 Solar Eclipse. When viewed from Onslow, 99% of the sun will be covered by the moon – a fact that’s expected to draw up to 50,000 visitors to the Pilbara and Gascoyne regions.
Read on below to find out more about stargazing in the Pilbara, and start planning your trip north for April next year!
2023 Solar Eclipse
The big day is happening on Thursday 20 April, 2023 from 10.05am until 1.05pm (with a peak around 11.30am). At this time the coastal areas of Onslow will experience a deep partial eclipse, with over 99% of the sun being covered up. This unique, immersive astronomical event will draw spectactors from around the world – and you could be one of them – just remember your special solar filters for safe viewing!
Cheela Space Safaris
If you’re headed to the delightful Cheela Plains Station Stay in Paraburdoo (a few hours away from Karijini) around August, they offer a fantastic opportunity for budding astrophotographers to go on a three night “Space Safari.” Bring along your camera, laptop and telescope and they’ll help you get the full potential out of your equipment and some amazing shots overlooking the unique Pilbara landscapes.
WA’s official stargazing body, Astrotourism WA, recognises Onslow as an official astrotourism town thanks to its high number of observation sites. As a result there are plenty of opportunities to hone your astrophotography skills at places such as the Mars-like termite mounds 10 kilometres out of Onslow (pictured below); Paraburdoo’s awe-inspiring resilience structure (an ‘astrophotography hotspot’ according to Astrotourism WA); and of course, Karijini National Park.
Staircase To The Moon
While most people think of Broome when it comes to the Staircase To The Moon phenomenon, you can also see something similar from First Avenue in Onslow between May and October. Check out this year’s dates below:
Tuesday 17 May, 6.49pm
Wednesday 18 May, 7.49pm
Thursday 19 May, 8.54pm
Wednesday 15 June, 6.34pm
Thursday 16 June, 7.43pm
Friday 17 June, 8.52pm
Thursday 14 July, 6.28pm
Friday 15 July, 7.38pm
Saturday 16 July, 8.44pm
Friday 12 August, 6.22pm
Saturday 13 August, 7.27pm
Sunday 14 August, 8.28pm
Sunday 11 September, 7.09pm
Monday 12 September, 8.07pm
Tuesday 13 September, 9.03pm
Monday 10 October, 6.49pm
Tuesday 11 October, 7.45pm
Wednesday 12 October, 8.41pm
Clinton Walker’s Ngurrangga Tours are an excellent opportunity to explore the Pilbara region through the lens of its First Peoples, with some tours going overnight and offering a chance to experience the night sky through his eyes. There is a specific Staircase To The Moon tour to go on, along with an overnight tour of Millstream Chichester National Park (by request) where you’ll camp under the stars and learn how the Yindjibarndi people used constellations to survive on the land.
Other Stargazing Experiences
If you’re chasing more casual stargazing experiences, there are plenty to choose from, with the Onslow War Memorial an excellent start point. The Onslow Cemetery car park is great for telescopes; Peedamulla Campground has wonderfully dark skies; the Mackerel Islands’ clear dark night skies are perfect to stare into following a day of activities on the water; and Millstream-Chichester National Park features the 5,000 star-rated Stargazers Campground.
Start planning your Shire Of Ashburton adventure today via their Website.
This article is sponsored by the Shire of Ashburton and very happily endorsed by us. Please see our Editorial Policy for more info.