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Dark Sky Facts

Human Facts

The human eye adapts to darkness in a few minutes, but to see the most stars possible your eye needs to completely adapt and that takes up to 30 minutes.  If you start at dusk then during this time the sky will be getting darker, and you will see more and more every minute.

The human eye sees low light details around the centre, not in the centre, often you can see more if you look slightly to the side of a point of interest.

Lunar Facts

The moon is by far the brightest thing in the night sky, so to see the most stars, choose a night when there is no moon or little moon.  The moon is so bright that when your eyes are adjusted to the dark there will be a visible shadow cast on the ground if the moon is half full or more.

We only ever see one side of the moon.  The moon rotates at the same rate that it orbits the earth so the side that faces us, always faces us, and the side that faces out always faces out, this is known as gravitation locking.

The dark side of the moon is not actually permanently dark, it experiences night and day like earth does.  The ‘darkness’ refers to the fact that we cannot send radio signals to the dark side of the moon, or orbiting craft behind it.  It is interesting to think though that this could be solved with satellites should it ever be necessary.

The cycle of the moon has long been linked to human behaviour and sanity, giving rise to the mythology of werewolves and the word ‘lunatic’.  There are still studies to this day that suggest crime peaks during a full moon (but there are also studies that suggest it doesn’t).

Planet Facts

In the night sky the first stars to be visible aren’t stars at all.  They are planets.  Planets are so bright that they are visible at dusk and the stars follow as night falls from east to west.

Planets move across the stars week on week as they are also rotating the sun with us, but they are predictable in their location from night to night, and good starting point when looking for points of interest.  Use one of the many websites or useful apps to identify the planets currently visible in the night sky.

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