The Brecon Beacons, in Wales, offers some of the best places to explore the stunning night sky lit up with stars with many heading there to witness the spectacular Geminid meteor shower
With the clocks going back, darker nights and skies are just perfect for stargazing.
And there’s one particular part of the UK where the night sky is better than anywhere else to look up at the stars and see the meteors, Milky Way, and if you’re lucky – the aurora borealis.
The Brecon Beacons National Park, in Wales, is an internationally recognised dark sky reserve, meaning there is an exceptional quality of starry nights with limited pollution blocking them from view.
Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages recommend grabbing your binoculars this winter, and heading to Wales to witness the spectacular Geminid meteor shower, which can be seen from the Brecon Beacons during the month of December.
The Northern Lights have been spotted from the Brecon Beacons and are most likely to be seen on a dark clear night in the autumn equinox from October to March.
Autumn is also the best time to see the Milky Way from the Brecon Beacons, which looks like a hazy band of light that stretches out across the night sky.
Meanwhile, there are 88 different constellations in the sky and prominent ones to look out for include The Plough which points to Polaris (The North Star) and Orion’s Belt which is next to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
An aptly named one to try and spot while you’re in Wales is Draco the Dragon – it’s a long curve of stars that swirls around Polaris in the northern part of the sky.
The International Space Station orbits the earth once every 90 minutes and you should be able to recognise this white dot as the brightest object in the night sky, with Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn also visible from Earth.
Fancy a spot of stargazing in Wales? Here’s where you should head to:
Enjoy wonderful views over the Carmenshire countryside from the ruins of Carreg Cennen.
It has a spectacularly elevated spot on a limestone ridge and dark skies that are perfect for stargazing.
Located high in the Usk Valley, this peaceful reservoir is protected from light pollution.
It comes with lots of parking and flat surfaces if you fancy setting up a telescope.
This remote Augustinian priory is nestled in the secluded Vale of Ewyas.
The lack of any light pollution means you can enjoy some of the finest dark skies in Wales.
You can enjoy spectacular views over Powys and Shropshire from the car park on Hay Bluff.
Hay Bluff forms part of the Black Mountains.
The Brecon Beacons National Park Visitor Centre is based just outside the lovely village of Libanus.
There is lots of information and facilities to help you make the most of stunning views over Pen y Fan.
Top tips for stargazing in the Brecon Beacons:
Stargazing is an activity that’s accessible to all but planning ahead and bringing along a few key items will help you to get the most out of your evening of spotting stars.
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It can take around 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark night sky and you should try and avoid further light pollution from torches and mobile phones. Red-light torches are best for night vision and phones should be changed to a night-time setting.
Evenings in the Brecon Beacons can get rather chilly so it’s a good idea to bring along several layers of clothing and have hats and gloves at the ready so that you can keep warm as the night-time temperature starts to drop.
A compass will help you to know which direction you’re facing when you’re looking for particular constellations in the sky. Most smartphones have a compass app on them to help you work out north from south.
Although you’ll be surprised at just how much can be seen with the naked eye, bringing along even a cheap pair of binoculars will help to enhance your view so that you can see even more stars in the sky.
There are several useful smartphone apps to help you find specific constellations in the night sky including SkyView Lite and Star and Planet Finder.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.