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Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Monday, 20 December 2010
Stargazing Live with Norfolk astronomer Mark Thompson
Astronomer Mark Thompson
Mark will be live on BBC Two for Stargazing Live

A range of spectacular events are set to take place in the Norfolk night sky in January 2011.

The BBC Stargazing Live team, including Norfolk's Mark Thompson from The One Show, will help you navigate them.

"Jupiter and Uranus will be really close in the sky and look pretty spectacular," said Mark.

January will also see a partial solar eclipse and the unique opportunity to see the Quadrantid meteor shower with the naked eye.

The celestial events take place on the 3, 4 and 5 January 2011. The partial eclipse, which happens only once every eight or nine years, takes place on the morning of Tuesday, 7 January.

To coincide with the increased activity in the night sky, Professor Brian Cox and comedian Dara O'Briain will join Mark to host three nights of live stargazing from 8pm on BBC Two, featuring epic images from observatories around the globe.

If you're keen to start finding your way around the sky, Norfolk is as good a place as any to start your journey.

"Anywhere that's rural is a great place to start doing astronomy. Certainly the northern part of Norfolk where there are no big built-up areas, then Norfolk skies are big and dark," said Mark.

"Jupiter and Uranus being that close hasn't happened for quite some time. It's not something that's going to be spectacular to the naked eye, so you need a telescope to make the most of it.

"The meteor shower actually peaks every year, but this year will be a good opportunity to see it because the moon will be nearly new - so we get very little moonlight obstructing the meteors - it should be quite spectacular."

Jonathan Ross

As part of Stargazing Live, Mark has been to teach television presenter Jonathan Ross how to make the most of the night's sky.

"Jonathan is a keen astronomer but knows nothing so I've been teaching him how to do it.

"I started with naked-eye stuff. People buy telescopes but don't know the first thing about how to use it or how to find their way around the sky," he said.

Professor Brian Cox talks about the celestial events taking place in January 2011

"Winter is a great time of the year to see things, so we're really trying to encourage anybody to get outside and look at the sky. You don't need a telescope!"

Norfolk has a number of astronomical societies that are always keen to welcome new stargazers.

"Norfolk has four or five societies and they have telescopes and people who will help you," said Mark.

"Buying a telescope is not the best thing to do initially, so go along to one of the societies, have a look through their telescopes first and see what you can get for your money.

"Seething has a coupe of telescopes in permanent observatory domes, one of which is a 14-inch telescope [diameter] and that's computer controlled.

"You don't need to know where things are in the sky, you type in Saturn and it will show you Saturn - its got something like 64,000 objects in its database."

If you'd like some assistance with stargazing, there are a number of local events to help you.

Norfolk events

Open Night Deep Sky Observation - 3 & 4 January, 8:00pm

Great Ellingham Recreational Centre, Watton Road (B1077) NR17 2AJ

Meteor watching, planetary and deep sky observing with our telescopes. Wear warm clothing and strong waterproof shoes. Bring binoculars if you have them. Park in the Great Ellingham Recreational Hall car park, very short walk to the Observatory in the playing field. No age limits.

Contact: Before 7:30pm - 01953850626 | After 7:30pm 07952 117697 |anthony.foxcarter654@btinternet.com

Breckland Astronomy Society Observatory open night - 5 January, 8:00pm

Great Ellingham Recreational Centre, Watton Road (B1077) NR17 2AJ

Planetary and deep sky observing with our telescopes. Wear warm clothing and strong waterproof shoes. Bring binoculars if you have them. Park in the Great Ellingham Recreational Hall car park, very short walk to the Observatory in the playing field. No age limits.

Contact: Before 7:30pm - 01953850626 or After - 07952 117697 | anthony.foxcarter654@btinternet.com

Myths and Legends of the Night Sky - 7 & 8 January, 7:30pm

Seething Observatory, Toad Lane, Thwaite St Mary, Norfolk

Observing the night sky through a range of telescopes and a talk on "Myths and Legends of the Night Sky" by David Cook. There will be a charge of £2.50 for adults and £1.50 children for the talk, suitable for ages 8 upwards. Dress warmly and bring a red torch if possible. Observing depends on clear skies.

Contact: 01953 602624 | drbalcombe@tiscali.co.uk

See the Moon and Jupiter - 12 January, 6:00pm-10:00pm

Binham Village Hall, Binham, Norfolk NR21 0DR

An observation of the Moon at half phase, Jupiter and other deep sky objects using several different telescopes and cameras. No charge, all ages welcome, warm clothing and shoes/boots essential. You can bring your own binoculars/telescope. Car parking available and hot drinks too.

Contact: 01328 830770 | japrockter@aol.com

Your pictures

Have you got a great picture of the night sky over Norfolk which clearly shows the stars? Send it to us at norfolk@bbc.co.uk or add them to the Stargazing Live Flickr page.

Stargazing Live takes place on Monday, 3 to Wednesday, 5 January 2011, at 8pm on BBC Two.





Stargazing



SEE ALSO
Norfolk astronomer shines on TV
11 Dec 09 |  Nature & Outdoors

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