Everything You need to know about stargazing amidst the pristinely dark skies above Britain’s highest pub

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Here at the Tan Hill Inn, Great Britain’s highest pub, we feel extremely privileged to be so perfectly positioned within one of only four designated dark skies discovery sites in the whole of the British Isles.

We take our stargazing very seriously and like to.  keep abreast of all upcoming astronomical events in order to be able to inform you on our facebook page when there is something exciting happening in the night sky above!
 

Unfortunately, in Britain, we are very dependent on the weather for a good night stargazing. So before you set off anywhere it is a good idea to check the local forecast. But if you live in a built up area, even on clear nights you are unlikely to see anything more than the slightest of twinkles. The light from urban areas spills upwards, polluting the perfect inky blackness, that the delicate starlight needs to be seen. Only the very brightest objects can penetrate through the hazy orange miasma that hangs over our towns and cities!

 

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It seems such a shame to miss out on such wondrous unearthly spectacles, these free events, that play out each night across the Milky Way.  You miss out, all for the sake of travelling a few miles into the country.  You shouldn’t have to travel too far before you can appreciate the darkness of the night close to your locality?

But, perhaps you would rather visit a Dark Skies Discovery Site, where you know there will be no light pollution?

maybe you should come to us at the top of the hill?

Oh yes you must!

But what will you see,  you ask?

What about the Northern Lights?

Well you might see the aurora borealis, but they are highly unpredictable, and they deserve a blog completely to themselves (coming soon.)

But oh you will see so much, so so much …

 

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The Perfect Spot

When you have arrived, the first thing you need to do is find  a good spot to set up your temporary astronomical observatory. A nice dry bit of ground amidst the long grass and scented heather in front of the pub,  or on the outcrop behind? There is plenty of choice. From this, your earthly base you can begin your interstellar voyage through the depth of space!

The pub is very dark skies friendly and we keep light pollution down to the bare minimum. We even have specially designed, astronomy friendly outside lighting that is firmly pointed towards the ground, so as not to affect your stargazing experience!

All you have to do is just lie back, gaze up and wait for the show to begin
 
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The Guiding Constellations of the Celestial Sphere

If the night is clear you are in for a treat… But first let your eyes grow accustomed to the dark. Take 20 minutes or so to do so . If you use a torch put an orange or red filter on the lens so you don’t blind yourself or others whilst you settle into your night with the stars. Once your eyes have grown accustomed to the dark, look up and open them wide and gaze upon a universe of one septillion twinkling stars (That is a 1 followed by 24 zeros!)

This is the sparkling backdrop and the stage for some of the most spectacular cosmic performances 

Wow!

There is so much to see and take in, you can get lost in this glittering myriad of stars. So how do you find your way or find what you’re looking for amongst this endless star scape.?

Astronomers use the constellations in the night sky to find their way around and locate objects that they are looking for.

 Constellations are groups of stars that together form recognizable patterns. The shapes that they form can include animals, objects and people. Many constellations are named after mythological figures from the ancient world. ,. There are 88 recognized constellations . If you get hold of a good start chart or map of the celestial sphere, it doesn’t take that long at all before you will instantly recognize some of the more memorable  constellations in the sky, such as the Plough or Orion.

Once you have orientated yourself, you can then find the area of sky that is of interest to you, such as the ‘radiant’. This is the celestial point in the sky, from which the paths of meteors, or shooting stars appear to originate!

Shooting Stars

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Ah, yes, shooting stars,  the magical shimmering jewels that adorn the crown of astronomical delight!

 To see a shooting star streak across the night sky is always pretty special and on any given night, several may be seen. At times, the number of shooting stars can increase rather dramatically and these events are then known as meteor showers! 

Most meteor showers, come from the icy debris comets cast off in great dusty plumes from their tail, as they orbit the Sun. When our planet passes through these streams of debris, then meteor showers occur. The vast majority burn up in our atmosphere producing the brightly coloured streaks of light across the night sky. Some such as the the Perseid’s which occurs in July and August are quite spectacularly, prolific producing almost 200 shooting stars in an hour

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There are roughly 30 meteor showers a year and we will endeavour to let you know on our social media page, which ones you should be able to see from our perfectly positioned lofty pinnacle.

Sometimes you have to wait a little bit until you see your first. It can be frustrating when you hear others shriek out in delight when they see one, whilst you were looking in the opposite direction… But when that first streak of light whooshes directly in front of your vision, what a massive feeling of elation that is  and an adrenaline boost to boot! You become briefly a falling star junkie, desperately scanning the firmament for the next hit. Oh, and it will come,  sometimes like a whirlwind of colour, exploding out of the darkest patch of the night sky.

They truly are the astronomical event to witness, and can leave you feeling quite in awe to what you have just seen! 

You may need a drink!

DEFINETLY worth the journey!

The Planets

The five brightest planets in our night sky Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn can all be seen by the naked eye once you know where to look and what to look for! Though you see far more detail through a telescope. A useful bit of information when looking for planets and you are not sure whether you have found one or not is to remember this general rule of thumb. If its twinkling then it is more than likely a star. Planets don’t!

The Moon

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Our closest neighbour (only about 238,900 miles away!)is often the reason why many of us first became interested in Astronomy. For aspiring Skygazer, the moon is a great place to start because it is so close and accessible and of course it is beautiful in all its phases.

A full moon at Tan Hill on a clear evening is always an event in itself. But on those nights it is probably best not to stray to far from the pub and a good idea to keep clear of the moor!

What to Bring

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Heading into a designated dark skies area, such as Tan Hill with just your eyes is sometimes all you need and that is certainly the case with events, such as shooting stars . But bringing a pair of binoculars or a telescope will really enhance your visit  when looking deeper into space at the more distant bodies. Having a telescope is brilliant for seeing the rings around Saturn for example, and for some of the moons that orbit, the big gas giants of our solar system. All of which you cannot see  with he naked eye
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Keeping Warm and Comfortable

Remember wearing warm clothes is an absolute must! We are at a much higher altitude than where most people live in the country, and it is decidedly colder. It is always a very good idea to have a supply of extra layers hats, scarves gloves et cetera whatever month of the year you find yourself in. You should add a  picnic blanket, duvet or an old rug to lie upon or a fold up chair to your list of things to bring. Particularly during shooting star displays as it will make the experience a whole lot more comfortable

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Some astronomical events happen in the wee small hours of the morning and as much as we would like to, we cannot stay open all night, so having some snacks to eat and a hot flask of something is a good thing to include in your necessities!. 

Of course, as we briefly mentioned earlier the weather conditions have to be favourable because dark skies that are just dark, because they’re full of  leaden rain clouds,  certainly puts a damper on the proceedings, particularly if you’ve travelled far. We strongly recommend you keep abreast of the latest weather forecast before making the journey here.

 

A Warm Welcome

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If you have been outside for a while, and you do begin to get a bit cold, we do have some welcoming open fires, roaring in their hearths that you can sit beside to warm up, before venturing outside again. 

But why not make a night of it have , a bite to eat enjoy, a drink, book a room and if you are feeling hardy, camp outside. .

Our menu offers a wide range of freshly prepared hot meals, and we have a fantastic selection of real ales and other drinks available on the bar. We also have our very own Tan Hill Inn, Dark Skies Stout  exclusive to the highest pub in Great Britain, and a favourite amongst fellow astronomers and stargazers.

Imagine, once you have enjoyed a beautifully prepared meal in a warm homely pub ,washed down with a couple of pints of f dark skies stout you could retire to one of our is sumptuous bedrooms.  Snuggled down you can drift off  comfortably after a night of spectacular stargazing!

 

You don’t have to wish upon a star for that dream to come true!

 

Keep watching the skies.

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Established 1840.

The World Famous Tan Hill Inn is Britain’s highest public house at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.

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