Dark Sky Initiative
High Garden and the Tedder Family have partnered with Astrophysicist Brain Boyle who is leading the initiative for Dark Sky status for the area around the valley of Gibbston. Professor Boyle (who co-discovered that the galaxies are accelerating as they move further apart) is a friend and neighbour who has built an observatory outside his home in Gibbston situated just below High Garden. In his own words he describes this wonderful image thus.
The image is of High Garden house and vineyard with the setting Milky Way in spring. The Milky Galaxy is about 150,000 light years across and contains over 150 thousand million stars, about one star for every person who has ever lived. The Milky Way can be thought of two fried eggs put back to back, with our solar system located in the egg white, about one-third of the “way out” from the yolk.
In this image, we are looking back towards the “yolky” centre of our galaxy, some 24,000 light years distant from us. The precise centre is just above the head of the “great Galactic Kiwi” whose head and beak are formed by a dark patch of interstellar “dust” which obscures the stars behind it. At the centre of our Milky Way there is a black hole about 5 million times the mass of our Sun.
This dust is primarily located along the disk of the Milky Way galaxy, where the stellar density is the highest. This is not surprising since this dust is the product of stellar explosions and subsequent squeezing and cooling of the gas to form molecules which will eventually become the building blocks for new star systems, their planets and life. Not only are we children of the stars, but aliens are too.
These dark regions are occasionally punctuated by bright nebulae [Latin for clouds]. These nebulae are where newly forming stars light up the hydrogen gas from which most of the interstellar medium is made. The hydrogen glows with a characteristic red/pink colour. They mostly lie in our local spiral arm, around 4000-7000 light years from us. Or 40-70 million million million [quintillion] km. Still in our cosmic backyard.
From left to right in this image, the seven brightest nebulae are the Dragons of Ara, Prawn, Cat’s Paw, Lagoon, Trifid, Swan and Eagle. Of these, the Lagoon is visible to the human eye in a dark sky, like the one we enjoy here.