A panoramic composite image of the Milky Way as it stretches out across the island of St Agnes, Isles of Scilly

Look to the stars

Huddled around a campfire or snug in a sleeping bag, there’s something magical about looking up and marvelling at the twinkling stars. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of stargazing this Big Wild Sleepout.

What you will need

Binoculars/telescope

All you need to go stargazing is your eyes, but if you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, it's definitely worth using them. They can transform even a bare-looking patch of sky into a star-studded miracle. 

Red torch

Use a red torch if you need to see. Your eyes can take up to 10 minutes to become used to the dark, so try not to look at any bright lights when preparing to look at the stars.

However, red lights don't affect your night vision. You could adapt a normal torch using red cellophane or use a rear bicycle light. 

Compass

Use a compass so you know which direction you are facing.

Star chart and/or app for smartphone

Use a chart of the night sky to help you understand what you are looking at. You could download this handy guide from the BBC's Stargazing Live (PDF, 4 MB).

There are some free apps for smartphones and tablets that help identify stars too, such as SkyView for iOS and Stardroid for Android devices.

When and where

When?

Try to wait until at least an hour and a half after sunset to make sure the sky is completely dark.

Where?

Although you don’t need absolute darkness to see some stars, if you can find somewhere away from the direct glare of lights, you will be able to see far more. 

One option is to go on a night-time walk to a nearby recreation ground or country park.

You could also see if there are any Dark Sky Discovery Sites near you. They are nationwide sites that are great for stargazing. Wherever you choose to go, be safe and make you are with an adult. 

Moonrise over Cadair Idris, Snowdonia, Wales

What can you see?

Looking north

Can you see the Plough? This is one of the most recognisable constellations seen in the summer months. Some people also call it the saucepan or the big dipper. 

Looking south 

Look out for Cygnus the Swan. It looks like a huge cross and is one of the brightest constellations in the sky. 

Man-made objects

As well as the stars, planets and asteroids, there are other things to look out for in the night sky. NASA will update you when the International Space Station (ISS) is passing over so you can watch out for it. It's quick - it can travel right around the planet in only 90 minutes!

You could also spot a satellite as it orbits the Earth - they travel fast and in a direct line, without flashing like a plane does.

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