Silver Badges

For the Creative Cosmos silver badge you will need to get stargazing. If you have never done that before, don’t panic we have some hints and tips to help you find your way around the night sky

Below you will find a list of constellations to get you started. Once you have mastered spotting these why not check out the latest bronze badge page to find out if there is anything else special in the sky tonight here.

Getting Started
First things first, you need to decide what you want to look at so take a look at our astronomers guide here for tips.

Next you will need to know what direction you are looking in or stargazing can become a very tricky and confusing business. When you first look up at the night sky it can be a little daunting to think about navigating your way around but there are some very useful stars that we use as signposts to help us know where we are and find where we want to get to. These are called the northern circumpolar stars, they are visible to almost everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere all year round which is why they are so helpful. You may also like to use a mobile app or computer programme like Stellarium to help you plan too, they will help you to make sure you are looking at the right things. Take a look at our Looking For Jupiter video to find out how to do this.

First up, Polaris and Ursa Major
The number one most important star to find is Polaris, the pole or north star. It is not a particularly bright star which makes it a little tricky to spot. The easiest way to find Polaris is actually to get there from a circumpolar constellation, Ursa major. Ursa Major, also known as the Great bear is a straightforward one to find as part of it is famously referred to as the Plough or Saucepan depending on where you live. It is made of 7 stars, four of which make the pan of the saucepan and 3 make the handle. The two stars furthest away from the handle are called the pointer stars because, you guessed it, they point to something special. If you look at the distance between the pointer stars and jump that same distance 5 times in the direction they point you will reach Polaris – tah dah. You can check you have gone the right way by looking at a compass on your mobile phone as Polaris will be directly in the North.

Next Stop, Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia is another great one to find as it has such a distinctive shape, ‘M’ shaped at this time of year (‘W’ at some other times of the year) and like Ursa Major you can see it all year round. To find it you can use Polaris and Ursa Major as sign posts. If you look for the Plough and find the third star of its handle. Draw a straight line from this star (called Alioth) to Polaris. Continue the line in the same direction for approximately the same distance you should find yourself in the middle of Cassiopea.

Having found these three major markers in the night sky you will be able to use them to find your way around the rest of the sky. Don’t forget to think about looking for planets, the Moon, meteor showers – all sorts!

Share your science!
All you need to do to win your silver badge is upload some text, a video or a podcast telling us what you saw. As a scientist it is very important to make a record of what you saw, how you did it and what you are planning for next time. It doesn’t need to be too long, a paragraph or few minutes is plenty. You need to include:
  • What you saw.
  • How you found it.
  • What it looked like.
  • What would you like to see next time and how do you plan to find it.

If you took pictures or want to include other people in your post too then go for it!

The best posts will earn a new Silver badge and a goodie bag from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Remember, answers should be all your own work! Anything copied from other websites will not be counted.

Take the Silver badge today!
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