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Observing the Night Sky

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On a clear dark night away from the glare of city lights, you might see as many as two thousand stars. With a small pair of binoculars the number of stars you can see rises to thirty thousand and hundreds of thousands with a telescope.

The best places to observe are the darkest ones. The less ambient light around you, the better your eyes will adapt to the dark, and the more you will be able to see in the sky. It is ideal if you can avoid the general light pollution caused by many buildings, streetlights, etc.

Access to a weather website is crucial for all those interested in the night sky. Whether planning star party or a 5 hour observing run, the local weather dictates how successful your endeavours will be.

When we look up into the night sky, the stars seem to form groups or shapes. To help us identify parts of the sky we have given these groups names, these are known as constellations. The key to navigating the night sky is a good star chart. When using a star chart, a flashlight with a red filter can be a handy tool. Red lights do not interfere with night vision. A useful source of information is the BBC Sky at Night monthly sky charts.

Stars form in groups of billions of stars, in swirling masses called Galaxies. Many galaxies look like huge whirlpools in space. Our sun is part of a galaxy we call the Milky Way which we can see as a hazy band stretching across the sky on a clear night. Within galaxies stars form in groups, from gigantic clouds of gas and dust, so we can see clusters of stars which we call Open Clusters, in our telescopes.

A great site for Astronomy weather.

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