These podcasts have been prepared by Nick Busby an experienced observer, astrophotographer and science communicator from Usk Astronomical Society.
We hope these podcasts allow beginners and more regular observers to stargaze by listening to a commentary under the starry sky. You may find it helpful to first listen to the podcast and refer to a star chart or phone app to familiarise yourself with locations of the objects before heading out and looking up.
No special instruments are needed and the great majority of things can be seen by eye alone although binoculars will show some objects more clearly. If you find you get lost occasionally don't worry, stargazing takes a bit of practice, just replay the commentary and you will soon get the hang of it.
Summary of content of the podcasts
This session concentrates on the fabulous winter constellation of Orion. We explore its giant stars destined to end their days as supernovae. The constellation is home to the Great Orion Nebula, a birthplace of new stars. So we can examine the life of stars from their birth to their end. We swing down to Canis Major to see the diamond of the winter sky Sirius.
The winter triangle takes in the brightest stars in six of the most prominent winter constellations and helps us to find and recognise them. In this session we visit Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Minor and Canis Major
In this session we start with the majestic spring constellation of Leo the lion before moving east to the brilliant Arcturus in Boötes. We then head south to visit some of the brighter stars in Virgo before returning north through the realm of galaxies to see the glorious Coma Cluster in Coma Berenices. We finish the tour passing through the northern crown of Corona Borealis to the Great Globular Cluster of Hercules
We start by looking for the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn before turning to the Milky Way and the summer triangle. This is comprised of the brightest stars in Cygnus the swan, Lyra the lyre or harp, and Aquila the eagle. We then travel up the Milky Way and learn about the legend of Cassiopeia, the beautiful African queen and her daughter the unfortunate Andromeda. This is the time of year for meteor watching.
We start with the red planet Mars before learning about some of the giant stars of the Milky Way such as Deneb in Cygnus. We learn how to find the colossal Andromeda Galaxy, the most distant thing you can see by eye, and the Triangulum Galaxy, by star-hopping from the square of Pegasus. We finish by visiting the beautiful double star Almach.
The constellation of Taurus the bull is our first constellation with the impressive red giant Aldebaran. We explore the close open clusters of the Hyades and Pleiades and finish by exploring the constellation of Auriga the charioteer with its retinue of open clusters and the brilliant star Capella.
Tips for stargazing
- Make sure you are well wrapped up, even in the summer months it can get much colder than you might expect under a starry sky
- Allow your eyes to become fully accustomed to the dark. This can take 10 to 15 minutes without looking at a light or your phone. If you want to use a phone app make sure the phone brightness is set very low. Red torches can be used without affecting your night vision.
- Make sure you know which way is south, all the sessions start looking south. If you start facing in a different direction you may get confused.
- Take time to try to learn the shape and position of just a few constellations to begin with and build on your knowledge in subsequent sessions.
- Enjoy yourself!