30 before 30 - progress · nature

9. Go on a stargazing trip

As most of you know, I did a couple of stargazing courses at Greenwich Observatory at the start of this year, which made me feel incredibly reassured about how unimportant we all are and how the world is going to end. So it made sense for me to put an astronomy-related item on my 30 list, and I’m so glad that I did.

Way back in September I spent a week in Swanage relaxing, decompressing, exploring and generally escaping the hectic London lifestyle. One of the best things I did on my trip was to spend a couple of hours stargazing. The photo in the cover image is of the clouds over Swanage before the sun set on the night that Dan and I went stargazing: I’ve never seen anything quite like them. Astoundingly beautiful! After sunset they left a remarkably clear sky behind, and we set off for the hills to look at the stars above the sea.

The route to our stargazing destination was peppered with errant locals and errant cows, but once we reached our field of choice we set up camp with our anoraks, binoculars, star gazing app and head torches. I’m such a mega geek. We saw the stars so clearly, it was absolutely amazing and I feel so priveliged to have spent the evening doing that. I even saw a shooting star!

Anyway. I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite astronomical facts before the main event: a photo I took that night of the stars.

  • The universe expanded to 3/4 of its size within the first 3 minutes of its existence
  • On Venus, a day is longer than a year
  • The surface temperature of the Sun is 2 million celsius
  • The mean density of the Universe is almost exactly zero
  • Get drunk if you’re stargazing! Alcohol dilates your pupils, allowing you to see the stars more clearly

And, finally, here’s my photo…


… maybe I’ll stick to photos through telescopes next time!!!