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Best months for night sky in UK and winter skies.


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Hi All

Having started stargazing from this spring, and now it's mid summer, I cannot imagine how it will be like stargazing in late autumn and winter. I would imagine it will be darker, cold and windy often.

What is it like in the winter and which months are best for stargazing? cheers.

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Damn cold.

Nice clear winter nights are usually cold, can be very cold, -10 and -12C are clear but breathing is uncomfortable.

You will find out fast that learning what makes warm clothing is essential and you will end up buying it if you want to remain half comfortable. I have one very good collection of cold weather clothing.

Cannot guarantee any month being good, weather is too unpredictable, and not knowing where you are cannot even suggest a time. UK, Earth isn't much help. Basically West can be bad,

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Hi, just get kitted out for winter. As warm as possible, you're not going to be moving around much, so warm clothing and boots are essential.

The benefits are viewing from 4.30 right through the night, or as long as you need to !

Bring it on and as usual

clear skies,

Nick.

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Best times of year for me are spring and autumn. It gets dark at a reasonable time, I can get a session in without losing too much sleep, and the worst of the cold is avoided.

Having said that, it's rare for me to miss a clear night at any time of year. I was out last night, got Saturn in the twilight before 22.00, then lots of summer double stars.

Never underestimate how cold it can get, especially if observing away from home. Take lots of layers, add some as extras, and more for good measure.

My top coat is a XXXL, I can get lots of layers underneath it. The lady in the shop gave me a sideways look when I got to the checkout, I'm fat, but not THAT fat..... :smiley:

Cheers, Ed.

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When there is a frost forecast, ok it's going to be cold

but the sky is dark and clear, a flask of coffee, my boots,

lot's of layers and my Stargazers beanie hat it's really

warm, I need it as you can see in my photo not much hair.

Clear Sky's

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We can't be choosie in this part of the world. LOTs of layers means you can get whenever it's clear. Thermal skins for your legs is a must for me. Summer brightness is a bit of a killer as I like DSOs more than planets

Barry

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My favourite observing months have always been late February - April - you've got Orion high in the sky at the start of that period and, usually, the nights are a little warmer and the weather a little less atrocious than the bleak midwinter months. By April you can see some of the summer constellations and their attendant objects - Lyra and Hercules are always good if you can wait up beyond 11pm. My other favourite month was always August - this is when astronomical twilight starts to be at a reasonable time and you have the glories of the Summer Triangle right overhead. Plus it isn't so frigging cold! I was never dead keen on autumn because there always felt like there was less to see, but with my rejuvenated interest I'm looking forward to a trip down to Exmoor for a wedding in October.

My best piece of advice for being outdoors for a prolonged period in the freezing cold is a good set of thermals - long-johns, socks and vest. And don't forget decent gloves. I remember when I was a lad and my fingers froze to the slow-motion controls of my telescope. Try telling young astronomers of today that... they don't believe you!

DD

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I'm fairly south, Lat 44. If I sold this business and came back as a guest it would be mostly in August. Reasonable hours of darkness, warm nights and ... ah ... the Milky Way soaring overhead. But then, of course, there's Orion in winter. Hmmm....

I don't care about the cold. I just wrap up for it.

Olly

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Just to further what Ed (NGC 1502) said, the cold really can take you by surprise. The same amount of clothing that I wore for snowboarding in minus 30C proved to insufficient for observing in minus 5 to 10C. The reason being is you are not exactly active and moving round much when under the stars. Even wearing snow boots I have used in the arctic circle, I find the cold can get to the feet quite quickly (the ground can get very cold). So top tip, is use an old bit of carpet / camping mat to insulate you from the cold ground. It can make a world of difference.

And for me, late summer for the comfort, great objects and reasonable duration of the nights, and mid winter for the spectacular night skies.

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Last autumn was ok, but the winter totally blowed. Non-stop cloud for months on end :(

In comparison, the year before had a lot of clear winter nights and very low temperatures. I was out imaging when it was -20 (a bit of a freak winter it was), but the gear still kept chugging along.... well, better than I did anyway!

Tuesday night at SGL8 was probably the coldest ive ever been - that was until I switched on the fan heater and electric blanket :D

October - Feb are my fave months anyway. More nebulae than you can shake a stick at! (as well as orion).

But..... a close 2nd is Aug-Sept becuase of the low southern targets like M16 and M8.

Mar-June is my least favorite.... too many galaxies and not a big enough telescope to see them properly!

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As far away from June as you can get. The combination of June skies and the fact we only ever seem to get clear nights around the full Moon destroys any hope of any major DS observing. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy stargazing in these months, but it's mainly planetary observation and very low power, wide field sweeping.

Just get wrapped up warm, very warm, and winter stargazing is worth it. Yes, if you don't have enough layers on you won't be able to make it an all nighter, but the amount of observing you get to do before it reaches midnight is frankly amazing. Winter nights are not worth sacrificing because of the cold, there are so many wonderful things to see!

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I remember the old crisp, clear frosty nights of quite a few years ago now. November to the end of January would be good months to catch that night of perfect seeing for planets or you would have crystal clear transparency for going deep sky. The winter night sky is just awesome anyway, so it's worth getting wrapped up warm and go enjoy the view.

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I too am looking forward to the return of Winter. All night sessions are the best :). Lots of layers and a flask of tea. Although if im in the garden, i do tend to pop into the house every now and then. Screws your night vision up but the security lights do that anyway, and keeps your hands from frostbite!

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Thank you all for your feedback on this thread.

Being able to stargaze from early evening sounds real good, as these days, it has t be about after 11pm to get reasonable dark skies - even then it does not seem to get fully dark through all night as such. And by the time finished the stargazing and clearing up, it gets 1am - 3am, which makes us very tiring next day.

I too, am really looking forward to stargazing in the winter. Better get prepared for outdoor cold temperature.

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Trouble with gazing is that you are basically stood still, you are not moving round to create any heat.

I liked the time when I can put the scope outside and do the basic alignment and set up, then leave it to get dark. Doing the setup as much as possible in some light was useful and took a lot of the trouble out of it. You can see things on the scope easier.

Where you are can be a big factor, in Norfolk and the East in general from about mid Jan to end of March there is normally a good biting cold wind from Europe that will absolutely freeze you to the core. Might be clear otherwise but hypothermia really has to be considered. Lived in Norwich for some years and it is felt here in Cambridge every year.

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I am just outside of Edinburgh, and it can get quite cold and windy up here during the winter.

What about burning logs in wood stove while observing? Would it cause negative visual effect in the viewing, and to the scopes themselves due to heat and hot air generated around? The stove can sit a wee bit distance from the scopes? Not sure if this is OK or bad idea.

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I am just outside of Edinburgh, and it can get quite cold and windy up here during the winter.

What about burning logs in wood stove while observing? Would it cause negative visual effect in the viewing, and to the scopes themselves due to heat and hot air generated around? The stove can sit a wee bit distance from the scopes? Not sure if this is OK or bad idea.

The is stuff like this....http://www.betterlifehealthcare.com/products.php?catID=53&subID=553

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