A beginner’s guide to stargazing

With the snow abating in most parts of the country we should hopefully be seeing some clear skies over the next few weeks.

This is not only good for getting out and about but also helpful for witnessing December’s stargazing highlight: the Geminids Meteor Shower, rumoured to peak on December 13 and morning of the 14th.

The meteors from the Geminids shower are relatively slow moving and are thought to be increasing in intensity each year, so there really is no better time to start watching the skies. Whether you’re a novice or seasoned watcher of the stars, there are a number of handy tips to make sure your stargazing is successful.

Aside from adverse weather conditions, light pollution can be one of the biggest obstacles preventing your enjoyment of stargazing. Rural areas are the best locations to get away from the lights and if you can head for a hill, you’ll get an even better view of the horizon.

You may be gazing at the stars for a while, so make sure you are doing so in comfort. Bring comfortable chairs to sit on and make sure you wrap up warm. A torch is also essential – especially if you’re stargazing in a rural location. A red filter on your torch will allow you to see without affecting your ability to gaze at the stars. Also make sure you bring a  star chart for identifying the constellations. There are many star charts available to download free from the internet.

You may think you need an expensive telescope but binoculars are not only cheaper on the whole, they can also be better suited to the task – especially if light pollution is an issue. A decent pair of binoculars is relatively inexpensive and you certainly won’t be short of things to look at.

Finally, Google Sky is a great little app for smartphones that can turn anyone into an expert astronomer. All you have to do is download the app, point your Android phone at the night sky and Google Sky will identify the stars, planets and constellations. Sounds like the perfect introduction for aspiring astronomers.

Please share any tips you might have in the comments section. You can also search our rural holiday cottages to find a perfect place to gaze into the heavens.

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