The Isle of Man’s open countryside, beaches and hilly viewing spots allows for some seriously sensational stargazing opportunities. This free, family-friendly and ‘bucket list’ activity is a must during the colder and clearer winter months. 

Here’s our guide to planning your stargazing adventure - all right on your doorstep.

1.    Build excitement in the run up to your stargazing adventure by getting the kids involved in the planning. Relish in some star facts… ‘did you know we’re all made of star dust?’

2.    Choose a night with a clear forecast and remember stargazing is best done a week or so each side of the New Moon as its light will not drown out the fainter stars and the Milky Way, only seen from dark locations like the Isle of Man.

3.    Pick a convenient location from a choice of the Island’s 26 designated Dark Skies Discovery sites – the highest concentration in the British Isles. Axnfell Forest and Fort Island are two of the best locations to spot the winter stars.

4.    Prepare your stargazing exploration pack. A warm drinks flask and a comfy seat or blanket is a must, but you may want to try out binoculars to see more of the night’s sky. Pack warm clothing and torches – with plenty of batteries and preferably a red filter to limit light pollution and avoid dazzling yourself.

5.    If you are staycationing and staying in our 'Stargazer Friendly' Accommodation you can take advantage of useful items from provided exploration packs, plus you can find details of the Island’s Dark Skies sites and public transport to and from the sites closest to your chosen comfortable base.

6.    Finally, plan to set out before dusk and check out our list of what to look for in our Jwinter night skies. Out of the top 25 brightest stars (known as first magnitude stars) 11 can be easily seen in the southern skies from the Isle of Man. Can you spot them all? Did you also know:

  • You may easily spot Orion’s Belt but look out for Orion Nebula, below the middle star of Orion’s Belt. The Nebula (a cloud of gas and dust in outer space) is fairly visible to the naked eye as a misty spot, but binoculars or a small telescope will reveal more to this sweeping structure.
  • On 11th January the Giant Jupiter and red coloured Mars will be close conjunction in Isle of Man sky at dawn. Jupiter is by far the brighter, but the fainter but distinctively red hued planet Mars will easily be seen in the southern sky before sunrise.
  • The night sky dazzles with the Milky Way at this time of year. One of the best times to see this unmistakable cloud-like band of stars will be on 17th January and 15th February as the Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and so there will be no moonlight to interfere with you gazing at the night sky.
  • On 31st January look out for the Supermoon, a second full moon in the same month, often referred to as a blue moon. The Moon will be close to the Earth and look larger and brighter than usual.
  • Tip: Looking at the moon with binoculars at a partial rather than the full phase will reveal far more detail of the moon’s craters, mountains and valleys.

7.    The Isle of Man is also ideally placed on occasions to see the magnificent sight of the Northern Lights. The crystal clear Northerly horizon from the north-east coast means this dancing spectacle, commonly seen in Alaska, Norway and Iceland, can occasionally be seen from the Island. To keep on Aurora watch see this handy tool from Lancaster University to receive alerts letting you know when you are most likely to see this phenomenon.

8.    If you’re a total newbie, apps like SkyView and StarWalk can help you to identify what you can see in the sky.

9.    Don’t forget to take pictures of your stargazing adventure and use the hashtag #iomstars / #iomdarkskies.