Nearby Galaxies and Stars
Note to self:
One cool thing about staying several days in Queenstown is that we finally had (1) clear skies, (2) no skyglow, and (3) enough energy to stay out after dark a few days in a row. We took blankets out to the lake shore right in front of the hotel. The view at night was really amazing, since there is no build-up on the far side of the lake. So apart from having a mountain blocking part of your view, you're not having to fight with city lights if you have something like a tree behind you.
I was able to point out the Milky Way to Caspian - I haven't seen that in a few years - and got to see the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds for the first time. Not all that impressive to look at unless you know what they are. Then it's humbling.
We'd managed to pick up a map of the southern skies after a few mishaps - Su accidentally left the first one she bought at the store thanks to a little distraction, and on the second attempt she had downloaded a map of the northern skies into her computer's cache. (There was no WiFi on the beach; connectivity in NZ was really bad.)
Back outside with the map it was fun to identify the brightest star in the sky as Rigel Kentaurus - a.k.a. Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, the closest big stars to ours. (Proxima Centauri is closer but it's a red dwarf star, and there are may be some closer brown dwarf stars).