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Stargazing at Mull of Galloway

Top Tips on Stargazing in South West Scotland

Discover the beauty of the Night Sky

South West Scotland has some of the lowest levels of light pollution in the UK so it’s the ideal place for stargazing. It is also home to Galloway International Dark Sky Park, the first of its kind in the UK, and to the internationally recognised Dark Sky Community at Moffat.

In a dark sky location like the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, you’ll be able to see up to 7,000 stars with the naked eye. If you live in a city, you can usually only see about 100, so that’s quite a difference!

If you are new to star gazing, read our quick tips below on where to go, when to go and what to bring to make the most of your stargazing experience in South West Scotland.

Where to Go Stargazing

South West Scotland is has some of the lowest levels of light pollution in the UK so it’s an ideal place for stargazing. It is also home to Galloway International Dark Sky Park, the first of its kind in the UK, and to the internationally recognised Dark Sky Community at Moffat.

But while you’re here, most of the region outside of the urban centres is great for star gazing.

Do try to get as far away from street lights, traffic, other sources of artificial light as possible. If there are lights try to turn your back to them.

When to Go Stargazing

Clear Skies. The best time to go stargazing is when skies are clear.

New Moon. Ideally try to avoid the full moon as the brightness of the moonlight means you will be able to see fewer stars.

Avoid Twilight. It’s also best to go after evening twilight or before morning twilight. This means in mid Summer there is almost no hours of complete darkness.

Check twilight hours and moon phases for Scotland here.

What to bring Stargazing

Wrap up warm. It can be cold stargazing outside in Scotland even in Summer. So stay warm with lots of layers, a hat, gloves and thermals. It’s easier to take them off if you’re too warm than add if you’re cold.

Bring a torch. Ideally use a red torch to help keep your night vision. Adapt a white torch by covering with a red sweet wrapper or brown paper. Your eyes take 10 or 20 minutes to adapt to dark. Don’t look at any lights, screens it will spoil your night vision.

Bring additional equipment. You might want to bring e.g. a star map, a pair of binoculars or even a telescope. Or bring luxuries e.g. a flask of hot chocolate, a warm blanket, a reclining deckchair!

What You’ll See Stargazing

When you go stargazing in South West Scotland, you will see different things depending on what time of year it is and of course the biggest factor is the weather as clear skies are a must! In this video, Steve Owens from Glasgow Science Centre explains what you should look out for.

The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in is made up of billions of stars and looks like a wispy cloud running across the night sky. It is visible throughout the year but appears in different positions in the night sky. To see it arching across the sky as it is often pictured, it’s best to visit in Autumn.

Stars and Constellations. On a clear night in a dark sky location like the Galloway Dark Sky Park, up to 7,000 stars are visible to the naked eye compared to only 100 visible from most towns and cities. If you are lucky you might even get to see a shooting star! Constellations are simply names for groups of stars which make up patterns and shapes in the night sky. Perhaps the most well known is The Plough. This is a useful one to orient yourself, as the two ‘pointer stars’ at the end of The Plough point to the faint North Star. You might also look out for Cassiopeia, Orion’s Belt, Gemini and Leo. Here’s a guide from the Galloway Dark Skies Park that you can print off to take with you and help you identify them.

Doon Castle Dark Sky

Please Respect Your Environment While Stargazing

Please make sure you have permission to access the location you want to stargaze from. Much of South West Scotland’s lands and waters are free for the public to access, thanks to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In return, the code asks people to act according to three key principles:

  • Respect the interests of other people by not encroaching on people’s privacy or livelihoods e.g. staying away from farmland, construction sites, quarries etc.
  • Care for the environment by leaving the land as you find it. Don’t damage the flora and take your rubbish with you.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions by acting in a responsible manner that doesn’t put you or others at risk.

Be sure to read the guidelines to ensure you know the code before you go and understand which areas are excepted from the rules.

 
 
 

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