Nature's evening pleasures
There’s never been a time quite like it, to embrace a slower pace of life and appreciate what’s around us. Mother Nature is playing a starring role providing solace and connecting people across the planet. Flora and fauna flourish as summer marches on and with it, darkness becomes harder to achieve. That being said, remind yourself to look up; we’re still gifted with evening spectacles.
In the North York Moors, we’re incredibly lucky to have vast areas of clear, dark skies. In prime conditions you can see up to 2,000 stars. If you aren't able to access one of our dark sky discovery sites, have a go at home! Get out in the garden, stand at the front door or sit in a dark room and gaze out the window. It’s the perfect time to reconnect with the night sky.
Here’s what to look out for
There's no denying the stargazing calendar gets quieter in the summer months, but what we lose in stars, we make up for in planets.
- Noctilucent clouds are particularly special as the UK is one of the few and best places in the world to see them. The ghostly clouds glow in the dark from late May to early August. They’re the highest cloud in the sky at 50 miles. Sunlight bounces off ice particles to perform a shimmering dance. Look north one hour after sunset, or before sunrise.
- We've been teased with possible comet sightings since the beginning of the year- finally one has come off! Comet NEOWISE can be seen with the naked eye from early-mid July. You'll need to be up late, preferably early hours of the morning. Look low in the north. There's a small viewing window so don't hang around.
- Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system. It’s closest to Earth (and most spectacular) on 14 July but you can see it many months before and after. Visible all night long, find it low in the south. A good pair of binoculars will reveal its four largest moons as star-like points of light.
- Hot on the heels of Jupiter, the ringed world of Saturn is closest to us on 20 July, again low in the south. It's a bright yellow star and a telescope should reveal its show-stopping rings. The two planets stay close together during the summer – a real treat!
- Come the second week of August, the truly dark skies return again. That means we see many more stars and get a good view of the well placed Milky Way overhead at nightfall.
- The Perseids Meteor Shower peaks overnight on 12/13 August - best viewed from a dark location. Recent years have delivered the goods with plenty of shooting stars. There's no wonder it's one of the firm favourites in the meteor calendar - definitely one to look out for.
Plan your stargazing break
Take a look at our Dark Skies Friendly network. There’s a whole host of accommodation and activity providers who have dedicated their services and facilities to give you the best stargazing experience when you return to the North York Moors. They’ll most certainly give a warm welcome when able to do so again.
Top tips to stargaze at home
- The best view of the heavens is when there’s no moon in the sky so keep an eye on new moon phases
- Allow your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust and gain night vision. Avoid looking at lights; this includes your stargazing partner’s torch! Try making a DIY red filter
- Get comfy! Reclining chairs are great to relax and gaze skywards in comfort.
- You don’t need expensive equipment. A pair of binoculars will increase what you’re able to see dramatically. Look for 10x50 or 7x50.
- Don’t get lost in space. There are dozens of useful apps to help identify what’s above you.
- Learn a new skill. Local astro-photographer Steve Bell regularly shares his advice to produce out-of-this-world images with little experience. Check out his blog.
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