Things to take on a family stargazing trip

Stargazing at Tyntesfield, Somerset © NTPL/The Secret Studio Steve Sayers

Stargazing at Tyntesfield, Somerset

You don’t need a telescope. You don’t even need binoculars. On a clear night there are a lot of exciting things to be seen with the naked eye. That said, there are a few bits and pieces that will make your stargazing adventure all the more enjoyable:

  • Something to lie on
    ‘Don’t forget to take a blanket or camping mat so you can lie back and look up without hurting your neck.’
    - Saul Burton, stargazer and park manager
  • Food and drink
    Take some food and drink to keep kids happy as you wait for the stars to come out. On a cold night hot chocolate can help keep little stargazers warm.
  • A sprinkling of imagination
    Stargazing involves a fair amount of waiting around so take some things to keep kids amused and kick start their imagination. How about uploading a playlist of space-themed songs to your iPod? Or as the sun sets, you could read them ancient myths about the stars and tales of space exploration?

    ‘You can use the stars to spot the shapes of animals and then make up stories about them. Or why not create your very own star map using star shaped stickers and some black card?’
    - Jemma Lowin, ranger

    'Look up at a star, imagine a solar system of planets circling that star and then imagine one of those planets and the aliens that might live there. Or if you look up at a double star system, which is two stars orbiting each other, you can imagine what it would be like to live on a planet with two suns.'
    - Chris Cook, astrophysicist
  • A guide to the stars
    ‘If you have an iPhone, the Star Walk app is good for identifying what’s what in the night sky.’
    - Saul Burton, stargazer and park manager
    Google Sky is also a great app for Android phones and tablets.

    ‘Planispheres are cardboard discs that show you what you can expect to see in the sky at any given time of the year. You can often get them with stargazing magazines.’
    - Richard Levy, stargazing wizard

    Or alternatively print out one of our with free seasonal star guides to help you spot constellations during spring, summer, autumn and winter.
  • Red torch
    ‘It takes quite a while for our eyes to become properly adjusted to the darkness of an inky black night sky. It’s a good idea not to look at your mobile phone screen, and cover any torches you are using with a red sweet wrapper or red film.’
    - Will Gater, astronomer, science writer & presenter
  • Warm clothes
    Make sure you take warm clothes. Even on a balmy summer evening, with clear skies above, stargazing can get chilly all year round.
  • A compass
    A simple compass can be handy if this is your first time searching for a particular constellation or star.
  • Your camera
    You could take a camera to capture the wonder on stargazer’s faces or the stars above. There is quite an art to photographing the night sky so take a look at our photography video for a few tips.

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