Star Gazing in the Garden: Avoiding Corona Boredom

Yesterday’s back garden activity idea was the back garden camp out, and as my daughters went to the tent on Sunday evening, there was a cloudless sky, which, even in Guisborough, allowed us to see a good covering of stars. We could easily pick out Orion, and the distinctive three stars which make up his belt, and from this the star cluster of Pleiades- also known as the Seven Sisters. As well as the dazzlingly bright Venus! And this was just looking west- see the grainy but hastily taken photograph below. Looking North, I could immediately see Ursa Major- and the distinctive shape of the Plough that we can use to locate Polaris.

The view west from our garden on Sunday.

With sadness I was reminded at that moment- I was supposed to be leading one of our Dark Skies events from Great Ayton which we had to cancel, but then realised that there was the opportunity to sit with the girls and look to see what we could see. Granted, the finer constellations, the possibility of seeing a shooting star or a passing satellite are massively reduced due to the ambient light, but , there’s still plenty to see! So, here’s a few suggestions and ideas that you can do one evening- possibly sitting in a sleeping bag with hot chocolate!

Idea 1: I‘ve quickly just adapted some of the resources I use when running Dark Skies events, there are three relatively easily recognised constellations that we can see this time of year; and, we can use the Plough to locate the Polaris, also know as the Pole or North Star!

Idea 2: download an app to your phone, such as Sky Map, or Star Walk, and use that identify constellations, stars, galaxies and planets. At present we can easily see Venus, and shortly we will stop seeing orion until the Autumn.

Idea 3: research the stars! What are stars? Which is our nearest star? What is the life cycle of stars? Which is the brightest star (not in our solar system…).

Idea 4: have a look out for the International Space Station- there’s some you can use, or you can visit the NASA ISS website, and op your location in (see here for sighting opportunities fro Great Ayton). As I write, I can that tonight, the ISS will be visible for 2 minutes at 6.53pm and and 3 minutes at 8.26pm- but you need to know which direction to look as it is different each time!

All of the above photos were taken by Russ Stephens (C), the one with the lone tree was taken in January during our first Dark Skies Walk of the year from Newton Moor, near Gribdale Gate- and yellow/orange light is the light pollution from Middlesbrough, but here it really adds to the moody atmosphere of the photograph.

Did you know that Rewilding Adventure is please be Dark Skies Friendly, a status we are proud to have earned from the North York Moors National Park, and we were thrilled to contribute to the Dark Skies Festival this year- as soon as we can, we will be back exploring the wild places and seeing the wonder that celestial beauty offers; but for now, let’s weather the storm that is unfortunately likely to get escalate.

Title and featured image: Milky Way taken at Sutton Bank (C) Russ Norman Photography_NYMNP