A camping trip brings you right into the beauty of the natural world and taking the time out to gaze at a night sky teeming with stars is a magical experience for all the family. Our easy guide to constellation spotting for novices will give you a little insight into what wonders to look out for.
The Big Dipper (A part of Ursa Major – also known as the Great Bear)
Part of a constellation known as The Ursa Major, this is one of the most recognisable patterns in a starry sky – look out for a ‘cup’ and ‘long handle’ shape. It is most easily found during the summer months in the northernmost part of the sky.
The Little Dipper (A part of Ursa Minor – also known as the Little Bear)
Begin by looking at the two stars that form the right side of the ‘cup’ and follow a straight sight line due north and you will see Polaris, the North Star, shining brightly. Polaris is the end star of the Little Dipper’s ‘handle.’
Cassiopeia the Queen
Once you’ve spotted the North Star from seeking out Ursa Major/Minor it’s easy to find Cassiopeia. Draw an imaginary line from the point the handle meets the cup of the Big Dipper straight through the last star (the North Star) in the handle of the Little Dipper, that imaginary line will cut through Cassiopeia. It’s small and looks a little like the letter M or W, depending on the time of night and time of year.
Orion’s Belt (part of Orion the Hunter)
Look out for three similar-looking bright stars in a short, straight row, spaced about equally apart, situated at the mid-section of a cluster of stars. This is Orion’s Belt, and forms the centre of the constellation Orion the Hunter. The two smaller stars north of the belt are Orion’s shoulders, the two brighter stars to the south are his legs.
Taurus (The Bull)
Still need a little extra help? There’s a great range of constellation spotting apps available – we especially like Star Chart, Night Sky Lite and Sky Map – so what are you waiting for? Get stargazing!