Stargazing for Beginners
Posted at 11:00 - 9th August - Sarah Booth
If you’ve ever travelled out to the countryside at night, looked up at the sky and been astounded by the abundance and brightness of stars, you may just have drawn breath and wondered where all of them came from?!
For many of us town and city dwellers, the city lights obliterate all but the brightest of stars, meaning we become disconnected from what goes on above our heads. But stargazing is something that is in our DNA, a culture that stretches back to the beginnings of human civilisation, and one that we want to bring back!
So, if you're heading out on an over night trip to the countryside, switch off your lights, phones and torches, gaze up at the sky and see how may constellations, planets and galaxies you can connect with.
The first thing you need to do is find a comfortable spot – make sure you have a blanket if it’s a cool night – and allow 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. You can use a telescope or binoculars if you wish, but many constellations and planets can be spotted by the naked eye.
Start by finding the North Star or Polaris; you can use Ursula Major (Big Dipper) to do this. Notice that a line from the two outermost stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper points to Polaris. And notice that Polaris marks the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The northern sky is a large clock, with Polaris at its centre.
Once you have this in your sights you can gradually work out other constellations, which are groups of stars that have been named based on the shapes they suggest. Most of the main ones, such as Orion, are from the Greek myths, giving us a connection back to the folklore that has long been associated with the stars.
If your stargazing skills are still a little rusty, there are some incredible apps that can help you such as Sky Maps or Star Chart. Both apps allow you to point your phone to the skies and will tell you what’s around you. Just remember to switch it onto Night Mode!