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
First things first, you need to decide what you want to look at so take a look at our astronomers guide here
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!
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