25 Interesting and Amazing Night Sky Viewing Facts

Here are some fun things to know about the world above us that are amazing and interesting. These will expand your perception even further when you start stargazing.

  1. Our galaxy (the Milky Way) contains a mind-blowing 200–400 billion stars and over 100 billion planets.
  2. The name, Milky Way, describes how our galaxy looks from Earth. Various nations have alternative names (as per Wikipedia), but the most common is the Milky Way.
25 amazing facts about the night sky
  1. In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera is said to have sprayed milk across the sky in relation to how our galaxy appears to us.
  2. To the Romans, our galaxy seen from Earth was a road of milk. They named it “via lactea”.
  3. In China the Milky Way is refered to as ‘Silver River’ (銀河).
  4. The people of the Kalahari Desert in Africa call the Milky Way the ‘Backbone of Night‘.
  5. There are 200 billion to 2 trillion or more galaxies estimated in the observable universe!! Note: ‘observable’.
  6. Gazing at the night sky adds depth and balance to our world. I’ve done this with wonder since childhood. The expanse of the universe is humbling with the observable edge about 46.5 billion light years away.
  7. Aussies and New Zealanders (Kiwis) see not only the Moon, but also the constellations, opposite side up to that observed by star watchers of the Northern Hemisphere.
  8. The ‘saucepan’ is an asterism in the upside-down Archer (Orion) viewed in the southern hemisphere. The belt and sword, together, looks like a saucepan (or pot).
  9. The Southern Cross provides a navigation aid for Aussies and Kiwis looking for the direction of south, just like Polaris in the northern hemisphere indicates north.
  10. The southern hemisphere constellations and star clusters that are well known in that part of the world include the saucepan (the belt and sword of Orion), the Seven Sisters (Pleiades), and the Southern Cross (Crux).
  11. Winter is best time in Australia for stargazing because of a higher frequency of clear dark nights and a low chill factor.
  12. Like traditional Australian Aboriginal groups, ancient peoples all over the world studied the skies. 
  13. Australian aboriginal people recognized a dark-sky constellation, an Emu, in the Milky way. Cultural stories were told of this Emu.
  14. The study of stars and planets overhead is one of the oldest sciences.
  15. Reading the night sky guided traditional peoples on seasonal hunting, gathering, cultivating, and living intuitively. Polynesians navigated the Pacific Ocean using stars in the night sky.
  16. Astronomy was originally called astrology (astro- meaning star, and -ology a subject of study).
  17. Astronomy and astrology doctrines separated in the 17th century.
  18. Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) the “father of modern astronomy” was an astrologer.
  19. All 12 western zodiac signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, relate to stellar constellations.
  20. The red supergiant, Antares, is the ‘heart’ of Scorpius (Scorpio). Its diameter is 750 times that of our Sun and its luminosity more than tens of thousands that of our yellow dwarf Sun.
  21. With your naked eyes you will see 1000s of stars in the night sky. In total around the planet the official figure is 9096. But your location, eyes, and the atmospheric conditions affects this number. At least half are blocked from your standing point. With binoculars, you’re likely to see 25 to 50 times more than with the naked eye.
  22. We only ever see one side of the Moon. The side we don’t see is the ‘dark side of the Moon’ (also an album name of Pink Floyd) AKA far side of the Moon. Craters cover the surface of this side, many more than on the visible side. We don’t see this cratered side because the Moon’s rotation is captured by Earth — it’s tidally locked with our planet — it circles Earth at the same speed it spins around its axis.
  23. The dark side of the Moon is lit approximately 14 days of the month. Consider ‘dark’ as unknown rather than unlit. We never see the far side lit as it faces away from Earth when the Moon is between the Sun and Earth (in the New Moon phase).