Got stargazing fever

Find out how you can get involved with astronomy

See Jupiter like you’ve never seen it before! Throughout the month of March Jupiter will be at its highest point in the UK sky for many years to come, 56 years to be precise. Moving closer to Earth, Jupiter and its moons will appear brighter in the sky, offering fantastic opportunities to view the giant planet through a telescope. If you don’t have a telescope to hand, not to worry - you can also catch the giant planet and its Galilean moons through a pair of binoculars. To celebrate this spectacle, UK astronomers and local organisations have teamed up to organise National Astronomy Week (1-8 March 2014) to offer opportunities all over the UK to view the giant planet.

Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Stargazing by the war memorial at Barr Beacon Local Nature reserve
(Credit: M Bowers)

If you want to get a good view of the stars, one of the most important factors to consider is your location. Things like street lights, buildings and trees can obstruct your view or make the sky too light to see things clearly.

Dark Sky Discovery Sites are a large network of places in the UK that have been picked out for giving great views of the night sky. Dark Sky Discovery Sites are chosen for being fully accessible to the public (including firm ground for wheelchairs), but far enough away from any of the worst local light pollution to give you a better chance of seeing some amazing sights.

This year, STFC will be unveiling 26 brand new Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the UK, including:

  • six National Trust properties, such as St Agnes and Chapel Porth beach in Cornwall, Allan Bank in Cumbria and Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps in Cornwall
  • the National Botanical Gardens of Wales; and
  • a total of 19 new sites on the Isle of Man.

Each Dark Sky Discovery Site is rated for its darkness levels – some are internationally-renowned for their quality - so you can choose a site suitable for what you’d like to see.

To find out where your local Dark Sky Discovery site is, take a look at this map.

‘Seeing the Universe in all its Light’ exhibition

Our exhibition about Big Telescopes, ‘Seeing the Universe in all its Light’, has been on the road since July 2013, bringing its hands-on exhibits to destinations up and down the UK.

The roadshow features some fascinating insights into the world of astronomy and showcases the UK’s involvement in cutting-edge science with exhibits including a replica model of English astronomer Thomas Harriot's first telescope, a 1:4 scale model of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and an interactive control desk, providing details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by astronomers.

The exhibition was at each of the Stargazing Live venues; Portsmouth, Egham, Norwich and Oxford, and on its tour has been capturing the imaginations of people of all ages in their thousands.

Find out more about the exhibition and where you can catch it here.

National Astronomy Week Events

There are lots of free stargazing and astronomy events taking place all over the UK all year round, so why not get involved and see what you could discover?

The skies above Peel Castle
(Credit: Glenn Whorrall)

Visit the National Astronomy week website for more information and events near you: http://www.astronomyweek.org.uk/
If you’re organising your own event during national astronomy week, make sure you register it here: http://www.astronomyweek.org.uk/?page_id=131

More information about stargazing

For more information about stargazing, visit the Society for Popular Astronomy, they have been helping new comers into astronomy for over sixty years; take a look at their great web site http://www.popastro.com

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000