Winter Activities: Exploring the Night Sky

Finding something to occupy the kids’ eager minds during the chilly winter months can be troublesome. An under-utilised but ever-present resource is the winter night sky of the northern hemisphere. Stargazing is free (aside from investment in a pair of binoculars or an astronomical telescope) and offers the chance of an activity every member of the family can enjoy from a deckchair!
When star-spotting, it’s important to dress warmly. The British summer can be brisk enough, so her wintery relative is going to require a little extra in the form of a thick coat, toasty socks, snugly hat and gloves.
Finding a safe, comfortable vantage point – away from traffic, street lights and trees – is the first step in a successful evening of star-spotting. It takes about half an hour for most people’s eyes to adapt to the darkness. During this time it’s best to illuminate star gazing guides or necessary apparatus using a red light torch to preserve optimum visual state for seeing faint stars.
On a clear night, roughly 3,000 stars are visible in the northern sky. Constellations of the northern sky include Gemini, Pegasus and Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) During the night, the constellations’ seemingly float across the sky from east to west. Matching the movement habits of the earth’s sun, these far-off suns are rising and setting throughout the night.
Depending on the level of interest, investing in a pair of binoculars or astronomical telescope could turn a single evening of curiosity into a lifetime love. Binoculars are generally cheaper, however the power of a good-quality astronomical telescope is worth the investment if use is guaranteed.
Taking a little time to enjoy the winter night sky of the northern hemisphere is a great way to get outside, learn a little, and be involved with the environment… without going too far from a nice cup of tea and a biscuit!

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