Top tips from lifelong stargazer Richard Darn and other sources to help you make the most of dark skies this autumn:

  • Take warm blankets and cushions to put on the ground so that you can lie outstretched to get the best and most relaxed view of the sky.

  • Wrap up warm and dress in layers.  In the Autumn clear skies will generally mean chilly nights.

  • Only use red torches (the back light from your bicycle will do, or put a red sock over a normal torch) when going stargazing, which won’t rob you of your precious night vision. 

  • Give time to let your eyes acclimatise. It might take 20 minutes or so for your eyes to attune to the stars.

  • Check out the Sky at Night website for monthly video ‘Starguides’ and other information: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mk7h. For more in-depth information, Jodrell Bank’s website lists the planets, constellations and moon phases visible on specific days: http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/

  • Apps for would-be stargazers include Google Sky Map, which can be held to the sky to reveal the constellations, stars and planets in that direction, and the more fully featured Sky Safari, a firm favourite of expert and novice astronomers. 

  • Telescopes will give you close-up views of objects, but binoculars are by far the best place to start. Generally 7 or 10 x 50 sizes are the best for astronomy and prices can be as low as £45 for a decent pair.

  • Keeping our skies dark is a challenge given the spread of searingly bright LED lighting.  We all have a part to play by using such light sparingly and only where required for safety and for necessity. See our top tips for dark sky sensitive outdoor lighting which doesn’t disturb nocturnal wildlife nor obscure our views of the stars.


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