If you are a budding astronomer or a keen satellite spotter in the UK then you will be acutely aware of light pollution on any given night. In the town where I live, I would be lucky to see the major planets and a hundred or so bright stars unless I take a drive to one of my nearest Dark Sky Spaces.
A few years ago, on a family Cruise in the Caribbean, the Captain announced that the Lights on the aft of the ship (that’s the rear of the ship to all land lubbers) would be switched off at 10 pm for an hour.
Not particularly exciting except that when my eyes became adjusted to the light, the whole universe came into view – that was the day that my daughter became an Astrophile.
Stars, Clusters, Nebulae and the Spiral Arm of the Milky Way really put you in your place on the cosmic scale.
Fast forward a few years and together we have experienced the wonder that is the Perseids Meteor shower at midnight whilst lying in the grass of Hengistbury Head. Last year we stayed in the middle of the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which includes a number of Dark Sky Spaces that are perfect for Amateur Astronomers.
Despite a gibbous moon, we saw both Jupiter and Saturn and more Satellites than you can shake a stick at including the International Space Station and several other Satellites.
As Hamlets grow to become Villages, Villages become Towns and Towns become conurbations the amount of Dark Sky Spaces in the UK is diminishing but there are still plenty of places where you can get a good view of the best known Star Clusters.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the Night Sky in the UK
Dark Sky Areas in the UK
Winter is coming and Dark skies are upon us, but don’t despair Grab your Thermos and a Telescope because this map shows stargazing locations that are publicly accessible during night-time. Most are classified as official dark-sky discovery sites, and others come recommended by the local authority or organisation responsible for them.
Some are places that the Go Stargazing team have found based on recent light pollution maps. If you are looking for locations that host organised stargazing events visit the Stargazing events map.
You can even sign up for local Star Gazing events.
Best Dark Sky Areas to Star Gaze in the UK
The United Kingdom boasts a plethora of dark-sky Spaces perfect for stargazing, even though that may not be immediately apparent to those of us who live in towns and cities. Both the UK’s own Dark Sky Discovery body and the International Dark-Sky Association have worked with organisations up and down the country to help fight light pollution and ensure our skies remain dark for generations to come.
They’ve selected some of the darkest places in Great Britain and Northern Ireland that welcome stargazers and astronomers to enjoy the quality of their night skies.
If you want to take your telescope with you, it will pay to have something compact and portable. Read our guide to the best travel telescopes for astronomy.
International Space Station Live Stream
If you want mesmeric live footage of our beautiful planet streamed from the International Space Station as it whips through our skies at 28,000 km/h then bookmark this page.
The High-Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment places four commercially available HD cameras on the exterior of the space station and uses them to stream live video of Earth for viewing online. The cameras are enclosed in a temperature-specific housing and are exposed to the harsh radiation of space.
Analysis of the effect of space on the video quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide which cameras are the best types to use on future missions. High school students helped design some of the cameras’ components, through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student teams operated the experiment.
Live View of the ISS App
Using the same video feed as the ISS Live stream, this app adds far more data to an already interesting view from the ISS. 400 kilometres (250 miles) above the planet. The app provides an exciting experience marked by thoughtful design and features numerous customization options. With ISS Live Now, you can view amazing live HD video streams directly from the International Space Station’s cameras.
The Android and Apple apps utilise the Google Map (ISS tracker), which allows you to follow the Space Station’s orbit around our planet.
Top 7 Brightest Star Clusters for Telescopes
We have the definitive checklist for Cluster Spotters.
Here are the best and brightest star clusters in the night sky, ordered by constellation. Star clusters, like galaxies and nebulae, are extended objects with an apparent size in the night sky. However, they consist of stars that often can be individually resolved.
As such, magnitude largely determines how bright they appear to the naked eye.
- Sagittarius Cluster (Messier 22)
- Hercules Cluster (Messier 13)
- Omega Centauri (Caldwell 80)
- 47 Tucanae (Caldwell 106)
- Pleiades (Messier 45)
- Double Cluster (Caldwell 14)
- Messier 2
Dark Sky Area Events at UK National Parks
There are two types of designation, awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association that officially recognise certain areas to be naturally dark at night and free of light pollution, and therefore some of the best places in the world to view the beauty of the night sky including our own galaxy, the Milky Way!
Six UK National Parks – Exmoor, Brecon Beacons, Moore’s Reserve in the South Downs, Snowdonia, North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales have been awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status. Northumberland, with England’s most pristine dark skies, is an International Dark Sky Park (Gold Tier).
Every year, these National Parks celebrate the amazing night sky with Dark Skies Festivals and stargazing opportunities galore. They’re fun events for all the family and one of the highlights of the calendar year.
International Space Station alerts
International Space Station Live tracker. Get alerts on when the ISS is passing over your location. This service will only notify you of “good” sighting opportunities – that is, sightings that are high enough in the sky (40 degrees or more) and last long enough to give you the best view of the orbiting laboratory.< back to other articles