When was the last time you just stopped and stared at the night sky?
Gazing up in the dark at the stars and imagining a tantalising world beyond is a wonderful way to escape and let your thoughts go.
And while we are all staying safe at home, this is one thing we can do from our own gardens and front door steps – look up.
With large expanses completely free from light pollution, the Yorkshire Dales is a very special place to experience a truly dark sky.
When conditions are right, it is possible to see the Milky Way as well as the planets and meteors – and not forgetting our Moon. You could see as many as 2,000 stars, pick out the red glow of Mars or the finer details of constellations such as Orion the Hunter. You might even catch the brilliant dancing glow of the Northern Lights.
But skywatching can be done anywhere, and these recent sunny days with clear nights are offering great opportunities to catch the International Space Station travelling at 17,000mph over our heads!
The ISS is always travelling round the Earth, taking around 92 minutes and completing 15.5 orbits a day. It is visible to the naked eye as a bright white dot, but it is not always possible to see it – and always a thrill when you do.
According to spotthestation.nasa.gov it will be in our region this evening (Thursday 26 March) at 20:28 for 3 minutes before it disappears over the horizon, and tomorrow (Friday 27 March) at 19:41 for 4 minutes.
So after you have thanked our incredible NHS and all those working on the frontline with a big clap at 8pm tonight, don’t forget to look skywards. Happy ISS spotting!
Some top tips for would-be stargazers…
- The best time to view the stars is from mid-August through to early May.
- Winter is the best time to see star clusters and constellations, spring is best for planets, and autumn is best for the Milky Way.
- It’s easiest to see the stars if there is no Moon, so look out for the new Moon phases.
- Be patient. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, the more you will see. And wear warm clothing as clear nights are also the most chilly!
- Try to avoid looking at any lights as it can take up to 20 mins for your night vision to come back!