It's the CPRE Star Count between 6 - 14 February! On a clear night between these dates, help to map the night skies from home by counting how many stars you can spot in the constellation of Orion (find out more below). This will give an indication of light pollution in different areas, as light sources such as street lights and buildings can affect our views of the stars. 

Some of our lakes are situated within dark sky reserves and discovery sites, so we know just how special dark, starry skies are. Here are some of our top tips for stargazing during winter:

  • Grab a chair to sit on, or even better, a reclining seat. This reduces the strain on your neck when looking up. 
  • Avoid the use of white light torches or looking at your phone. White light will instantly ruin your night vision, taking around 20 minutes to re-set. Red light torches are much better for retaining vision if you need a source of light. 
  • Wait until it's really dark before you start counting - CPRE recommend starting after 7pm, and turning off all the lights in your house. 
  • If you are struggling to find the constellation of Orion towards the south of the night sky, try using astronomy apps such as Google Sky Map. 
  • Wear warm clothes and bring spare blanket and hat - you will enjoy the experience more if you stay toasty warm! 
  • Bring a warm drink and snacks

The Story of Orion

One of the best constellations in a winter sky is that of Orion, the famed Hunter of the Wild Beasts of Earth.

According to Greek mythology, Orion was the son of Poseidon (the God of the sea) and it was told that Poseidon had bestowed great power upon his son, including the ability to walk on water as well as being given a shield and solid gold club to hunt with.

The most famous story involving Orion must be of his arrogance about being the best hunter that ever lived. He boasted that he could easily kill all the wild beasts in the world. This angered the Greek Gods, in particular Gaia, the Goddess of the Earth and so she cast Orion into the night sky and summoned the Scorpion to forever chase Orion. Looking into the night’s sky, we can see that as the constellation of Scorpio rises in the East, Orion always sets in the West.

At the shoulder of Orion sits the super-giant red star of Betelgeuse, 864 light years away, whilst the left kneecap of Orion is the hyperstar of Rigel, 642 light years away. If we travelled constantly at the speed of light it would still take us that many number of years to reach those stars! At the centre are the three stars of Orion’s belt.