“When we look out into space, we are looking into our own origins, because we are truly children of the stars.”
The night sky can be truly magnificent. Thanks to less air and light pollution particularly during the recent national lockdowns, the night skies in the UK have been clearer than they’ve been for a long time. Making it the perfect time to get stars in your eyes and share in a magical experience with the whole family.
Stargazing is a fun and interactive activity easily shared with children of all ages. With very little equipment, a bit of patience and a sprinkle of imagination; a night under the stars can be a wonderful way to make timeless memories together - wherever you are in the world.
Here are our top tips to get everyone inspired and interested for an evening watching the night skies.
Many think that you need expensive equipment or a fancy telescope to get involved with stargazing, in fact the smartphone in your pocket is a fantastic first port of call. Apps that are available on both Android and iOS such as Star Rover or Sky Safari are excellent ways to help you to navigate your way around. Ideal for beginners, these apps are super easy to use as you simply point your device at the sky and they will explain exactly what you are looking at from stars to constellations and even planets. Other useful apps to try are Google Sky on Android and Star Walk on iOS.
Set Up Space Camp
Grab a blanket, snacks and refreshments and look up! Get cosy and comfy before you start exploring the universe. Ensure that you get your eyes acclimatised by being outside in the dark for at least 20 minutes before you start. It sounds obvious but if you are stargazing in your garden, ensure that you are away from street-lights and that all of the lights in the house are switched off to reduce further light pollution.
Depending on the seasons and the time of night, the sky is constantly changing. It is well worth stargazing at different times of the year to see what new things you can discover. It is also best to stargaze before the moon is full, so it’s always a good idea to have a quick check of the phase of the moon online before you get started.
Keep little space explorers fully energised and entertained by keeping to a space theme. Why not create a special ‘space-base’ during the day before the big event. Get creative with decorating your space with star-shaped pictures or come fully dressed for the occasion with your best spacesuits. Don’t forget the hot chocolate with plenty of fluffy marshmallows for when those energy levels dip. No time to get creative? Then all you need is a blanket to lie down on, a garden trampoline also makes a fun alternative spot for watching the night skies.
Know your Planets
Did you know that many planets can be seen with the naked eye such as Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These can be easily distinguished from stars because planets do not ‘twinkle’. Leading astronomy journalist, Dr Stuart Clark shares his top tips when searching out these incredible wonders. “Venus and Jupiter are bright white in appearance, Mars is a baleful red, Saturn is the colour of straw and Mercury only appears in twilight.” (1)
Delve into the night sky whatever time of day with our magnificent spellbinding constellations map. Bringing the sky at night to life with glorious original 17th Century illustrations, with eye-popping fluoro, shimmering metallics and midnight blues. This piece is a unique, educational map that will be a welcome addition to any budding astronomer’s collection. Read more