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Ten Top Star-gazing Tips

1 Choose a good location.  Find somewhere away from bright lights of towns and roads.  It doesn’t need to be remote, but somewhere with limited artificial lighting, and a good field of vision, our Dark Sky discovery sites are perfect.

2 Be comfy and warm.  You will want to let your eyes adapt to the dark and if you are hoping to see meteors you may be watching for quite a while, so wrap up warm and consider putting your sun lounger to good winter use, the reclining posture will give you a perfect view of the sky.

3 Choose a good night.  Check the weather forecast, you want a clear night and for added activity, try choosing one where there might be meteor showers, when there will be no or minimal moonlight.  There are many throughout the year, so why not mark them on your calendar?

4 Plan ahead.  Take warm drinks and snacks, have them easily accessible and have a dull torch to help you find them.  Many modern LED torches are fantastically bright, but this light will not only be uncomfortable but also reacclimatise your eyes to brighter light conditions.  Dull your torch by covering with red cloth or a filter.

5 Attend some Dark Sky Events.  Many local astronomical societies will host events to share their enthusiasm for the stars, and you will be amazed how much you can learn in just 60 minutes.  Even if you spend that time indoors it will equip you with some great basic knowledge.

6 Magnify. You don’t need a big serious telescope on a tripod to look at the stars.  Anything you have that magnifies will be useful, be it a pair of binoculars or a pocket monocular.  They would still allow you to discern a binary star system, or see the craters on the moon.

7 Digital Assistance.  Don’t be afraid to take some useful tools.  There are a number of apps available that will help you spot things and interpret what you are seeing.  

Sky Map – hold your phone up facing the sky and see a labelled and illustrated version of what you are looking at.
ISS Detector – get alerts and viewing guidance for when the ISS and other satellites will cross the sky.
Remember to turn down the brightness on your screen!

8 Learn the myths. If you are taking young children star gazing there are Greek myths about the constellations which you can use as an aid for interpretation. These stories will capture the imagination, and are useful for filling the time between meteors, or during cloud cover.

9 Give it time.   You can’t rush it, partly because it can take your eyes up to half an hour to fully adapt to the darkness you get at a Dark Sky Discovery Site.  Also there may be intermittent cloud cover, have something you can talk about, maybe word or memory games to pass the cloudy periods. 

10 Pick a star, any star.  To see the changes in the sky and notice how much more you will see as the sky darkens and your eyes adapt, pick a prominent star as a reference point.  Use this to see how many more stars become visible and how the whole sky appears to rotate above you.

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