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Look Up and Get Lost with Star Count 2021

Friday 5 February 2021

When did you last see the Milky Way, that pale band which appears to arch across the night sky, formed from many billions of stars which make up our own galaxy? Why not 'look up and get lost' this weekend by joining CPRE - the Countryside Charity in their Star Count 2021. Choose a clear night between February 6th and 14th, look up at the constellation of Orion and let CPRE know how many stars you can spot.

During February, without any special equipment, these are two constellations you can easily find on a clear night:

The Plough or Great Bear looks like a giant saucepan. You can use it to find north. Draw an imaginary line through the side of the saucepan away from the handle: follow its line upwards until you see a very bright star. That's the Pole Star and if you stand to face it you are facing north.

Orion (the hunter) with his central belt of three stars, is a very distinctive feature in the night sky, especially from January to March. The constellation includes two of the brightest stars in the sky, Rigel and Betelgeuse. These, the belt stars and two others form an hourglass shape.

Here are CPRE's top tips for a brilliant Star Count evening:

Make a note of the dates, 6-14 February 2021, and keep an eye on the weather forecasts as the week approaches. Remember: safety and health are the most important things, so stay at home for your star counting this year.

Try to pick a clear night for your count, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so that the sky is really dark. Turn off all the lights in your house, too, to make it easier to see the stars.

Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘belt’. Take a few moments to let your eyes adjust, then count the number of stars you can see within the rectangle formed by the four corner stars. You can count the three stars in the middle – the belt – but not the corner stars.

Make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then submit your count on the CPRE website.