As the night sky appears and the stars start to twinkle, what will you spot in the night sky? Why not take a look and see if you can spot:
- The moon. What shape is it?
- Mars. What colour is it?
- Venus. How bright is it?
The Moon is the biggest object we see in the sky at night. The moon goes
round the earth, just like the earth round the sun. It takes around 28 days for the moon to go round the earth, as the moon changes its position in the sky, we see different amounts of it, so it appears as if the moon is changing shape.
The brightest planet in the sky is Venus, and third brightest object after the sun and moon. The brightest star is Sirius and the closest is the sun, which is about 4.5 billion years old. Most of the 6000 visible stars are between 1 billion and 10 billion years old. Some of the blurrier objects in the sky are actually entire galaxies, which are millions or even billions of light years away.
Stars seem to twinkle because their light travels through the earth’s atmosphere and the turbulence in the atmosphere affects the way stars are seen.
Did you know: The are about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. And in our galaxy alone there are approximately 100 billion stars.
Top Stargazing Tips from the National Trust
- Stargazing is best done before the moon is full, so check the phase of the moon before you start.
- Turn off all the lights in your home to reduce light pollution.
- The night sky is constantly changing, depending on the time of year and the time of night. Try stargazing at different times in the year to spot seasonal constellations.
- Download an app like Star Walk (iPhone) or Google Sky (android) to your mobile device, and they will tell you what stars you can see from your current location.
What You'll Need
- Something to lie on. A blanket or camping mat will do.
- Food, drink and warm clothes to keep everyone happy and warm as you wait for the stars to come out. Hot chocolate is a perfect choice to keep cosy.
- How about uploading a playlist of space-themed songs to your phone? Or as the sun sets, you could read ancient myths about the stars and tales of space exploration.
- A star spotter guide and a compass to help you find a particular constellation or star.
- Your camera to capture the wonder on the faces of stargazers or the stars above.
What to Look out For
- All of the world’s oceans are controlled by the moon. The moon is the reason we have high and low tides. Only 12 people have ever set foot there. But because there is no wind, if you visited the moon today you would still see their footprints.
- It wasn’t until people saw the moon through binoculars that they realised it isn’t a perfect sphere. On a clear night, it’s easy to see its craters and bumpy edges.
- When you see the stars you are looking into the past. Because light takes time to travel and stars are many light years away from us you could be seeing a star that doesn’t even exist anymore.