Thankfully it doesn’t take much time or effort to experience some of nature’s biggest celestial marvels; here are our top tips for starting your stargazing journey.
You can stargaze anywhere. Even in a big city you’ll spot some of the brightest stars and planets. But to experience the real deal you need to go dark!
Visit Britain’s National Parks and AONB’s for the clearest views. Better still some are certified International Dark Sky Places, special locations that limit the amount of artificial light to provide the most sensational celestial experiences.
It all depends on what you’d like to see! A full moon is so bright it washes out the night sky, so stargaze at other times if you’re hunting for planets, stars or even galaxies.
The best time to view the moon itself is when it’s waxing or waning (moving to or from a full moon), so grab your binoculars for an up-close view of the lunar landscape.
Crisp winter evenings are also less humid than summer, so there’s less haze to interrupt your views. Just keep warm!
All you really need for stargazing is time. But there are a few extras that will make a difference.
Dress warm, bring a hot drink and a chair or blanket so you keep comfy. And a pair of binoculars, rather than a fiddly telescope, will easily let you spy into the details of the cosmos.
Gone are the days of star charts and compasses; these days all you need is an app to track your position and pinpoint exactly what you’re gazing upon.
Many apps don’t require an internet connection and have a red light mode to avoid interrupting your night vision. Just don’t lose yourself in your phone; stargazing is one of the best ways to escape modern life and to reconnect with nature.
The night sky is constantly in motion – because we are! Planet Earth spins and orbits the Sun so the position of the stars is different every evening.
Your app can guide you to their current locations, but if you’re flying solo a good point to navigate from is the Plough.
This saucepan shaped series of stars is one of the brightest. Follow an imaginary line from the 2 stars opposite the handle to find Polaris aka the North Star, this is the point around which the entire northern sky turns.
This shining display is one of nature’s most dazzling and colourful events, and is on many a bucket list.
It’s created when increased solar winds interact with Earth’s magnetic field. At these times, you’ll have a chance to spot the Aurora in open areas, with a clear view of the northern horizon that are away from artificial light.
You’ll also need a dark, cloud-free evening (there’s a reason so few people have seen it!). Sign up to real-time alerts from Aurora Watch to get your Aurora hunt started.
If we’ve whetted your appetite for stargazing, but you’d like some extra help getting started, then your local observatory might be able to help. Many hold year-round events, with experts on hand to guide you through the stars.
They’ll often let you get hands-on with telescopes to showcase the night sky’s most spectacular sights. Visit Go Stargazing to find out what’s on in your area.
Perhaps the most enchanting thing about stargazing is that it’s a window to the past. Stars are light years away, meaning the light from them takes time to reach us.
The light from our nearest star (after the Sun) Proxima Centauri takes 4.22 years before we see it from Earth. Others are thousands of light years away, meaning some of the stars you’ll see may no longer exist!
Opening up young minds to the marvels of the cosmos is magical. Memories are made as they spot meteor showers, comets and, if they’re lucky, the star fields of the Milky Way.
Considering how epic our universe is, wondering what might be out there has inspired countless scientists, astronomers and adventurers in their life-long journeys of discovery. Maybe your little stargazers will be next!
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