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For World Space Week (4-10 October), take your section to a Dark Sky Discovery site to look for constellations.

Time: 90 minutes

Equipment

  • an app or guide for identifying constellations

Instructions

1. Find your nearest Dark Sky Discovery site (darkskydiscovery.org.uk/). These are areas designated as being away from the worst of any local light pollution, with good sightlines of the sky. These sites are generally freely accessible at all times but you should check the website for any additional accessibility requirements. If you don’t have one nearby, try using a public park, open space or local campsite, where light pollution is limited.

2. Plan an outing with your section to one of the nearest sites on a clear night. You don’t have to be in the countryside or the middle of nowhere to find one, some parks in the centre of big cities are designated Dark Sky Discovery sites.

3. The young people can use a mobile app like Night Sky, a constellation guide or the BBC stargazing booklet to identify some of the different constellations they can see in the sky at night. Find more tips and advice about stargazing from Scouting partner Bear Nibbles at: scouts.org.uk/bearnibbles.

4. Suggest some things for the young people to look for. On autumn evenings and early summer mornings: the landmark to look for is the Great Square. Look for four stars that form a square. The top left star is part of Andromeda, and the other three are part of the constellation Pegasus (winged horse). Looking up and left from the star in Andromeda, they will find the Andromeda galaxy. Two constellations that form part of the western zodiac, Aries and Pisces, are also visible at this time. Up and to the right of Andromeda is Cassiopeia, and to its right is Cepheus.

On winter evenings and early autumn mornings: Orion is a bright constellation and works as a landmark. The constellation represents a hunter with a sword on his belt, so the stargazers should look for a pattern of four stars forming his head, then his shoulders, arms and legs. Three stars hang off his belt for the sword, though the third star is actually the Orion nebula. To the west of Orion is Canis Minor, with Canis Major underneath it. Gemini, the zodiac constellation, is to the north-west of Orion, and Taurus is just to its north-east. Also visible are the Lepus and Auriga constellations.

Take it further

If the weather is not clear enough for stargazing, take your section to an observatory, planetarium or science centre to explore the universe. For either activity, young people could lead a discussion and show what they have learned. Why not turn your stargazing outing into a camp, with other skills like bivouac sleeping? Young people can build a shelter using this guide from Scouting partner Victorinox: scouts.org.uk/victorinox.

This activity contributes to the following badges:

Beaver Space Activity Badge

Beaver My Adventure Challenge Award

Cub Our Adventure Challenge Award

This activity could also help towards:

Nights Away Staged Activity Badge

Cub Astronomer Activity Badge

Scout Camper Activity Badge

Explorer Science and Technology Activity Badge

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