Finding joy in January: Stargazing

Lets face it, who doesn’t feel that January is a slog?

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We have invariably eaten too much, drunk too much, spent too much – and just when the house was looking all twinkling and welcoming throughout December, come January we’ve stripped it bare at the moment when we need that extra bit of sparkle most.

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After the joys of Christmas, January is a month that can cast a shadow over the sunniest of characters. So, this year I am planning a strategy of how to get through the first month of the year – and actually enjoy it.

First up is stargazing. I took the boys and their friend to our village youth club on Friday. With headtorches on they raced excitedly ahead of me, pointing to the different constellations in the night sky.

It made me think about how much they enjoyed being out after dark and that we should make the most of the dark evenings instead of fretting about the dwindling daylight hours. So we planned to get out and look at the stars.

January is a great month to view Jupiter. There is a comet called Catalina which may be visible throughout the month with a telescope or binoculars. It will be visible close to the Pole Star at the end of the month with binoculars.

There are also lots of Apps to help you identify what you are looking at in the night sky. The one we use is called Skyguide which has a search function to help you look for constellations, comets, satellites and even bits of large space junk as it races across the sky. As you move your iPad across the sky it shows you the stars in that part of the sky. It is also available as an android App.

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If you fancy going along to an organised astronomy evening then both The Low Dalby Astronomy Centre at Dalby Forest and York Observatory in Museum Gardens hold sessions open to all with the next events coming up on January 14th and February 5th at each.

We have been to the event at Dalby Forest although on the night we visited it was a little cloudy. Nevertheless, the speakers give an interesting talk about what they have seen and photographed so it’s never a wasted visit.

Last year we also visited Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester which has an orrery, a clockwork working model of the solar system. The main attraction though is the Lovell telescope which dominates the Cheshire skyline.

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The telescope was built shortly after WW2 and at one time it was the biggest radio telescope in the world and it is still exploring the universe today.

So why not join us and head outdoors on these January evenings? And instead of looking at what is squelching beneath your feet by day, turn your head upwards and take note of what is happening in the skies above you.

 

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