After a weekend spent 'oohing' and 'aahing' at fireworks, we should all be in the habit of looking up. And now that winter is setting in, we've got the perfect conditions for exploring the night skies. Along Bournemouth’s coastline you'll find quiet and peaceful beaches where you can rest, relax and enjoy the beauty of the area. But, after the sun has gone down, it's the perfect location for a spot of stargazing.

You don’t have be an expert or have a telescope to enjoy the night skies – all you need are your eyes! Give yourself several minutes to adjust to the darkness and on a clear night, you can enjoy an evening of awesome stargazing. Wrap up warm and don’t forget a flask of hot chocolate or a picnic. You could even pick up some local produce to sample while you’re soaking up your surroundings. Then, get ready to start your stargazing adventures…

Throughout the year, you can enjoy an array of different skies. Local stargazing expert ‘Starman’ Richard’s top tip is to get comfy and wait for the skies to light up. On a clear autumn night, you can be in for a great show! The Square of Pegasus is high in the south east and, slightly above and to the right of this, despite its potentially misleading season-specific name, you’ll be able to see the distinctive Summer Triangle well into autumn.

The Summer Triangle is a pattern of three bright stars from three different constellations – the star Deneb in Cygnus, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila. The brightest of these stars, Vega, is about 26 light years away. However, Deneb is whopping 2600 light years away so when you look at it, you’ll be seeing it as it was 2600 years ago!

Don't forget to look for satellites – they look like moving stars and there are lots of them up there. Look for satellites in the first two or three hours after sunset and check
heavens-above.com to see if the space station is coming over.

Did you know…?

  • There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches in the world!
  • People have been stargazing at Hengistbury Head for more than 12,000 years… wow!
  • Provided it’s a clear night, you can see the Pole Star all year round
  • On a clear night, look north and you’ll always see the Plough
  • Planets don’t twinkle like stars
  • We’re all made up of stars – every atom in our bodies is made from the dust of an exploding star!
  • When you see the stars, you’re looking into the past – because light takes time to travel and stars are many light years away from us you could be seeing a star that doesn’t even exist anymore

‘Starman’ Richard’s top tips

  • Bring a red light with you to help preserve your eyes’ adaptation to the dark
  • Try to find out where north is from your stargazing location and see if you can spot the Pole Star – this will help you to locate other compass directions in the night sky
  • Bring a pair of binoculars – they’re great for seeing the moon and colours of the stars, and if you look at the Milky Way, you’ll see lots more stars than with the naked eye
  • There are lots of night sky apps available on your smartphone, or you can get help from books and star charts – my favourite books are:
    • 40 Nights to Knowing The Sky by Fred Schaaf
    • The Monthly Sky Guide by Wil Tirion and Ian Ridpath
    • Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait
  • Hengistbury Head is a great stargazing spot on a clear night and they even run stargazing events throughout the year – for more information, check out visithengistburyhead.co.uk
  • For more great tips and advice, why not join a local stargazing or astronomy group?

BOU - Gallery - Night sky from Hengistbury Head image credit Kevin Ferrioli

Image courtesy of Kevin Ferrioli ferrioliphoto.com

This was taken from Hengistbury Head groynes towards Isle of Wight, May 2016 1:45 am. It shows part of the galactic core, Saturn and Mars passing through the Scorpio constellation (see yellow dots: above is Mars, below is Antares, which belongs to Scorpio and means opposite of Mars - in reality it is a super giant star).  

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