Posted 3 January 2013 by Andrew Gardner
In December the celebrated Sussex resident Sir Patrick Moore died, aged 89. The accomplished and popular astronomer, who was a long-time resident of Selsey, had only ever missed appearing on one episode of his long-running TV programme The Sky at Night - and that was many moons ago.
As many people said in various ways when paying tribute to him, Sir Patrick inspired you to look up and see beyond the obvious. When you're looking for a spectacular night sky light pollution is often a big problem, but up on the South Downs or at the coast on a clear night it can be truly spectacular. Stargazing outdoors is a chilly pastime at this time of year and it does tend to be a bit cloudy down here in Sussex, too, but January often brings clear nights that make it very rewarding.
If you don't fancy standing outside, though, or if you'd like expert guidance about what you're looking at, one of the regular shows at the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester features 'The Stars This Month'. Sir Patrick Moore was a key name in setting up the planetarium - although he described himself as 'only a backroom boy' - and it's a fitting legacy for the man who brought astronomy to so many people's attention in such an accessible way.
There are plenty of places on the Downs where you can park up and skywatch from the car, but it would be even better to be standing on the balcony of a luxury holiday apartment or in the garden of your holiday cottage, away from it all and peacefully enveloped in velvet sky and stars. So wrap up warm, get yourself guide to the night sky - there's a phone app that's quite good and solves the problem of trying to read a chart by torchlight - and start looking up. I'm sure you won't regret it.