Five ways to make your Star Count sparkle

Avatar for Jamie Wyver
By Jamie Wyver

Before you go outside, check Jamie’s tips for making the most of your stargazing session.

1. Keep warm

Wrap up before you head outside. You want to be able to comfortably stay still as you look up at the night sky and it can get chilly at this time of year. Take a thermos of something warm if you’re planning to make a night of it.

2. A map of the stars

You won’t need one if you’re just doing Star Count. But if you want to make the most of your time outside, take a star chart with you. There are some great ones online, like this star chart on Astronomy Now – and plenty of stargazing phone apps which will help you with your count.

3. Count the stars in Orion

Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark, find Orion the hunter. Look south (the way satellite dishes point!) and find the three bright stars in a row that form his belt. Find the bright orange star on the top left of Orion, and the blue/white one on the bottom right, then the other two that form a rectangle around the constellation. Next, without using a telescope or binoculars, all you have to do is count all the stars you can see within the rectangle. Include Orion’s belt, but not the four corner stars.

4. Explore the universe

If you’re treated to a good view of the night sky, make the most of it. What other constellations can you spot in the cosmos? Close to Orion you should be able to find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky to the left of Orion as you look south. Higher and to the right of Orion is Greek hero Perseus, with the head of Medusa, a monster who had snakes for hair. One of her eyes, a star called Algol, is nicknamed the Demon Star!

Almost directly above you is a giant W shaped constellation, Cassiopeia, named after a mythical Ethiopian queen. She’s normally pictured sitting on her throne. Beside her is Camelopardalis, which is actually a giraffe, named at a time when the word for the animal was a combination of ‘camel’ and ‘leopard’.

5. Send us your results

Add your Star Count results on our website. Even if you don’t see many stars, let us know. We want to be able to show the best stargazing spots but also those where light pollution is stopping people from being able to enjoy the wonders of the universe.

Two girls stand beside a large telescope with a dark night sky behind them
Mackenzie, Northumberland National Park