Top tips for stargazing

Visitors enjoying one of Bristol Astronomical Society's stargazing evenings at Tyntesfield, Somerset

Exploring our twinkling night sky is an adventure the whole family can enjoy. ‘Go stargazing’ is No.27 in our list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾, and the kids will love getting involved.

Before you begin

•    Stargazing is best done before the moon is full, so check the phase of the moon before you book your trip.
•    We hold stargazing events for all the family throughout the year. Give your local National Trust place a call to see if there is an event coming up near you.
•    Download an app like Star Walk (iPhone) or Google Sky (android) to your mobile or tablet, and they will tell you what stars you can see from your current location. You can also install Stellarium on your desktop computer and use it to explore the skies near you

What to take with you

•    Something to lie on. A blanket or camping mat will do the trick.
•    Food, drink and warm clothes to keep kids happy and warm as you wait for the stars to come out. On a cold night hot chocolate can help keep little (and not so little) stargazers warm.
•    A sprinkling of imagination to keep kids entertained. 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.
•    A compass to help you find a particular constellation or star.
•    Your camera to capture the wonder on the faces of stargazers or the stars above.

What to look for

The sun and the moon. What better way to start your stargazing extravaganza than by watching the sun set or the moon rise? Nothing could be easier.

It wasn’t until people saw the moon through binoculars that they realised it isn’t a perfect sphere. On a clear night, it’s easy to see its craters and bumpy edges.

Share your favourite sunset shots with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Remember

Never look directly at the sun through a camera, telescope or binoculars. You will damage your eyes, and may even suffer permanent blindness if you do. But you can make a simple pinhole viewer to project the image of the sun.