The Nights of the Stars begin this Friday August 5th and last until the 7th. The opportunity for everyone to discover astronomy and to explore the sky. We give you our best advice so you don’t miss a thing of the show.
How to correctly observe the stars? Astronomy interests more and more people and the Nights of the Stars, like those that await you from August 5 to 7, make it possible to democratize this practice. Nevertheless, a number of tips could help you observe the sky better. We come back for you, on all you need to know before practicing astronomy.
Watch out for light pollution
The sky is open, no cloud on the horizon and yet impossible to see the slightest star. You’re probably in townor close to a built-up area, and the light pollution spoils the whole show for you. Indeed, the lights of public lighting are the ordeal of astronomy enthusiasts. So to avoid being disturbed, it is recommended to go to the countrysideaway from superfluous lighting.
The best time is…winter
Summer is conducive to the practice of astronomy, the nights are warm and you are often on vacation. However the best time to observe the stars is rather winter. As Nicolas Massas, scientific mediator at Planète Sciences in Toulouse, explains, “in winter it is warmer cold and the air is therefore more steady“. “In summer, he continues, the heat of the ground causes turbulence in the air which makes observations more complex.”
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So don’t be afraid of the cold and take out your best blankets to admire the magnificent winter sky.
Get well equipped
First of all remember that you have eyes and that they are your best tool. For example, to observe the shooting stars of the Perseids on the weekend of August 12, no astronomical equipment will be necessary.
But if you want to observe more distant phenomena, such as certain planets, a pair of binoculars can already help you. According to the scientific mediator, with binoculars, “you could already observe two star clusters which are just below the constellation Cassiopeia: they are called the double cluster of Perseus.”
For the telescopes, contrary to popular belief, you should not invest 2,000 euros to be able to admire the stars. In fact from 250 eurosyou can find already very effective equipment to begin. If you are a little more seasoned amateur, telescopes costing around 400 euros will allow you to do more precise observations.
Nicolas Massas advises against telescopes in supermarkets, which are generally made of plastic and look more like toys. He adds: “Personally, I advise you rather to go to an astronomy club and use the equipment to learn. Only then can you buy one.”
The main constellations to discover
You have always heard that the Big bear looks like a saucepan and is easy to spot in the sky. So once you see her, head five stars to the right and you can find the polar starit indicates the north and composes the tail of the Little Dipper. Move five stars to the right again and you’ll come across a W-shaped constellation, that’s Cassiopeia. Have said of these three constellations that they are circumpolar, that is to say that we can see them all year round.
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In summer you can observe other constellations. On the Eastern horizon, you will find the three beauties of summer. These are three stars called Vega, Denebe and Altaïr. They are part of three constellations: that of Swan (which looks like a cross) for Denebe, that of the Lyre (a parallelogram) for Vega and that of the eagle for Altair. They can only be seen in summer in the northern hemisphere.
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Digital at the service of astronomy
Several applications exist to help with stargazing. On Iphone, in particular, you can find Planets. There is also Stellarium that you will find for free on Android and PC, it already requires a greater knowledge of astronomy. Finally sky map is a good sky map with all the constellations you can observe.
Occitania: land of astronomy
In Occitania, there are several astronomy clubs that can help you better understand this practice and give you plenty of advice. In Toulouse, for example, there is the People’s Astronomical Society at the Jolimont observatory. Other emblematic places of the city will allow you to learn as much as possible about our universe, in particular the City of Space Where Planet Science.
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Finally, there is of course the Pic du Midi which is the most emblematic place in the Pyrenees to observe the stars. This is a unique experience where you can observe the sky with professional equipment.