I love to stargaze and I’m quite happy to spend hours looking at the sights in the summer night sky. I have no idea of what I am looking at, and what stars are what. I just look up and enjoy the view. Occasionally, I’ll look out for something specific – usually if the BBC News Site has pointed out there’s something of special interest to see. With fewer clouds and the changes in the alignments of the Earth and the heavens, there are plenty of sights in the summer night sky to enjoy.
1. Spot the Planets
If you are a morning lark rather than a night owl, you might be able to spot Mercury and Venus before the sun rises this summer. If you prefer to wake up after the sun has arisen (and who can blame you!), look for Jupiter in the Cancer constellation, Saturn in the Libra constellation, and Neptune in Aquarius. You will only get to see these planets so clearly during the light, cloudless months, so be quick because it’s one of the sights in the summer night sky not to be missed!
2. Tightly Packed Stars
For this sight to see this summer you will need to get out your telescope, but the view will be so worth it. To the naked eye, a globular cluster appears as one big star, when in fact – as we can see through an everyday telescope – they are in fact made up of lots of little stars packed together. Try to spot M22, which is large enough to be visible easily because it is both large, and relatively close to Earth.
3. Track the Constellations
We all remember staying out late with our parents to spot the constellations when we were kids, having a great time in our carefree worlds where dreaming of planets and aliens was bliss. While you might not be able to recreate those emotions, you can use the summer months to view one of my favorite sights in the summer night sky: the constellations! Look to the southern part of the sky to spot Scorpio, the constellation with a red star in the center.
Who knew that the plural of nebula wasn’t simply nebulas? Anyway, linguistics aside, nebulae are beautiful and intriguing to the everyday stargazer as much as they are to professional astronomers. You might want to invest in some good-quality binoculars or a telescope to view them most clearly, especially if you can find a good telescope which also allows you to take pictures.
The best sights in the summer sky aren’t always natural, but can be man-made. NASA has a great website which allows you to track the man-made objects in space to view on a summer’s evening; check it out and see what you can find up above us!
6. The Milky Way
One of my favorite things to do in summer is to get far, far away from the city and its light pollution, go to a park or field, and just observe what is above us every night which we just neglect to pay attention to. You can see the Milky Way – a collection of thousands of stars – very clearly any summer. If you want to spend some time just relaxing and thinking about the world, do try to just get out and look up at what is in the sky; you’ll be amazed.
7. The Biggest Moon
One of the rarest sights in the summer night sky is what is called the Sturgeon Moon – that is, the moon when it is at its fullest in the summer months. The moon sometimes appears to be slightly red when it appears due to the Earth’s position, and the name is derived from Native North Americans who would use the light provided by the Sturgeon Moon to fish at night. Around the 10th August every year, you should be able to spot the moon, so prepare for a beautiful sky that night.
If you want to do more than just casually look upwards and want some structure to your stargazing, there are plenty of websites that can help you navigate the skies, picking out stars and constellations. Are you a stargazer of any sort?