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    A Beginners' Guide To Stargazing In London

    You don't even need a telescope.

    First things first: You don't need a fancy telescope like this one.

    Binoculars and a tripod will see you right.

    Binoculars are described using the magnification and size of lens.

    The equipment you need is not prohibitively expensive.

    You can even stargaze without any equipment.

    If you're not ready to take the plunge with binoculars yet, have a go at just using your eyes. You'll still be able to see some major constellations and planets – and there's always the moon.

    Ideal conditions involve clear skies.

    The best spot is on high ground, with few trees or buildings around.

    You want as clear a view of the horizon as possible. But to get going, you could just use a back garden, or your nearest green space. Don't worry too much about street lamps to start with – you can still see things even with light pollution.

    However, please take care not to go by yourself in the dark at night.

    Unless you're observing the moon, you probably want to avoid it.

    Wherever you are, you need to give your eyes time to adjust to the dark.

    Once you're settled in your spot, it's going to take at least 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the dark. And you can't pass the time checking Facebook on your phone – just glancing at a bright screen will undo all your hard work.

    Don't use a normal torch to see what you're doing – it'll mean your eyes have to adjust all over again.

    Use constellations to anchor your vision.

    Start with the North Star, also known as Polaris, to orient yourself in the night sky.

    From there, what you'll be looking for will depend on what's visible at the time of year you're stargazing.

    You can use the Big Dipper to find the North Star.

    Then look for Cassiopeia.

    Then turn the opposite direction and face south.

    That's where you'll find the most interesting stuff in the sky.

    In October Taurus is a good constellation to start with. Inside it you'll find the Pleiades, one of the closest young star clusters to Earth, which is visible with the naked eye. Then try the constellation of Pegasus, which is bordered by Andromeda – the nearest spiral galaxy to us – to the north and east.

    In November try the Beehive Cluster in Cancer, which contains a thousand stars at different stages of evolution. Aldebaran (an orange giant star which makes up the bloodshot eye of Taurus) will be higher in the sky this month. And keep an eye out for Orion, its reddest star, Betelgeuse, and the Orion Nebula in the constellation's sword, which in reality is not a single star but a giant star factory.

    December is a good time to look for Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and part of Canis Major, the big dog. Also, Leo the lion, close to Jupiter, shouldn't be too tricky to find.

    Before you head out, you can use free software called Stellarium to see what will be visible that night.

    If you have a smartphone, you can use an app to check what should be visible in the night sky while you're observing.

    This one is called Night Sky 2, but there are several available. Most have a night visibility mode that turns the screen red so you can look at it while you're out observing and not ruin all your hard work adjusting to the dark.

    Remember to be patient.

    Once you've found what you want to look at, focus your binoculars.

    And remember that the Earth moves under the night sky.

    Happy stargazing!

    Thanks to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and astronomer Radmila Topalovic for their help putting this guide together.