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An ad for Vodafone in Cairns airport, Australia, presents as a fact "worth ringing home about" that you can see more stars from the Australian outback than anywhere else on earth.

While the Australian outback would have less light pollution and less humidity than some places, I'm doubtful about this claim because if the outback is a good place to see stars, it'd also be a good place to build optical telescopes, and I don't think the Australian outback has a lot of optical telescopes. I thought that most optical telescopes these days are being built in mountainous areas such as Hawaii.

Are more stars visible with the naked eye from the Australian outback than anywhere else on earth?

  • antartica would also be very good for star gazing – ratchet freak Oct 1 '12 at 8:23
  • Actually in regard to telescopes, Australia is receiving half o the square kilometre array, the worlds largest telescopic project to date – Tomas Oct 3 '12 at 1:52
  • @TomasCokis though they're radio telescopes, not optical telescopes. – Andrew Grimm Oct 3 '12 at 2:13
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    You can't see the whole sky from australia. One part of the answer might check whether the southern sky has more "visible" stars than the northern sky. – matt_black Oct 11 '12 at 12:26
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    Maybe they count how many stars are in the Magellanic Clouds, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but not the Northern. – GEdgar Mar 2 '15 at 14:07
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The relevant paper seems to be "Cinzano, P., Falchi, F., Elvidge C.D.  2001, The first world atlas of the artificial night sky brightness". It gives numerical data per country and as of excellent observation conditions Australia is in the list of many other countries who are also pretty good.

In table 1 they give numbers of how many percent of the population of every country have excellent viewing conditions. Unfortunatley, Australia is not the best location. But these are only percentages, so with a little work you might figure out absolute numbers.

However, viewing conditions not only depend on light pollution (which is the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale), but also on the 'seeing' which is influenced by turbulences in the atmosphere, humidity and such like (compare http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_seeing) That's why people bothered building telescopes in Chile's Atacama desert in the first place.

So, Vodafone has a claim, but it's only half the truth if you're talking about naked eye visibity - other locations are good too.

Source: http://www.inquinamentoluminoso.it/cinzano/download/0108052.pdf

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    +1, though since the population of Australia is concentrated on the coast and the south-east, most of Australia can be very dark even if most of the population lives in brighter areas. – Henry Sep 30 '12 at 9:08
  • @Henry Yes, I agree, it would've been useful if they added data like "40% of the landmass of $country has excellent visibility". – Alexander Janssen Sep 30 '12 at 11:23
  • +1 on the importance of "seeing." At the very best naked-eye sites, seeing becomes a significant factor, especially if by "see stars" you mean "distinguish them" as opposed to simply seeing the Milky Way very brightly or being able to naked-eye view the Andromeda galaxy. In the amateur astronomy community, I would say Atacama is pretty much considered #1. At Mauna Loa, where I view, seeing improves as you climb the mountain, but naked-eye quality drops off at the highest altitudes as the oxygen and pressure affect you. – Larry OBrien Sep 30 '12 at 18:39
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In general, the farther you are from any sources of light, artifical or otherwise, the more easily you can see the stars. That said, I would think that this would be the place:

Extreme points of Earth - Remoteness

The Pacific pole of inaccessibility (also called Point Nemo), the point in the ocean farthest from any land, lies in the South Pacific Ocean at 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W, which is approximately 2688 km (1670 mi) from the nearest land (equidistant from Ducie Island in the Pitcairn Islands to the north, Maher Island off Siple Island near Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica to the south and Motu Nui off Rapa Nui in the north east).

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • Please reference per our faq – Sklivvz Sep 30 '12 at 15:08
  • This seems to be a theoretical answer, based on your idea of what should be an important factor, without empirical evidence that this is true. – Oddthinking Mar 2 '15 at 13:07

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