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Discover the sky at night with cottages4you

16th November 2010 Print

Recent research has revealed a startling gap in knowledge amongst the British public regarding stars and the universe.

In a survey carried out by cottages4you, the UK’s leading holiday letting agency, 40 per cent of people admitted that they know little or nothing about the stars and the universe, and only half of us have been to an observatory or looked through a telescope.

The findings highlight the ignorance of the British public when it comes to most things astronomical with one in five people believing man has already walked on Mars. However most Britons recognise their shortcomings when it comes to the night sky, with a whopping 85 per cent asserting that learning about the stars and our solar system should be taught in schools.

cottages4you carried out the research to support their growing number of holiday properties which are ideally placed for stargazing. Fast becoming a popular pastime, cottages4you has plenty of properties available which have on-site telescopes, or which are in areas with the ideal characteristics for observing the night sky.

For those who want to improve on their knowledge of astronomy, or who feel unsure about where to start, now is the perfect time to renew your interest. On the 17th and 18th of November 2010 stargazers will be able to enjoy the spectacle of the Leonid meteor shower. While the shower should be visible from the 13th to the 20th of November, it is due to peak on the 17th and 18th, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour during the early hours of the morning.

Steve Owens, astronomer and UK coordinator for the International Year of Astronomy 2009, has joined cottages4you to help get the nation stargazing. He said: “The research undertaken by cottages4you shows that whilst Britons may not have extensive knowledge about stars and the night sky, there is a desire to learn more.

“Whether you want to find out about the universe around us, or simply be aware of events to look out for and enjoy the spectacular offerings of our night sky, stargazing is a great winter activity and a fantastic way to take advantage of the long dark nights.
For those planning on viewing the shower, Steve has put together some simple and easy tips on what to look out for and what to take with you, when trying to find an ideal spot for stargazing.

The top five tips are:

1. Find dark skies – try and get as far away as possible from the glare of streetlights and the glow of large towns and cities

2. Wrap up warm – a hat, gloves, scarf, sensible shoes and warm clothing are all essential when stargazing in the UK

3. Bring a torch – preferably with a red filter on it (cellophane wrapped onto a normal torch is fine) to help you find your way around without ruining your night vision.

4. Find somewhere safe to observe – a flat, even area of land to avoid stumbles as you move about in the dark, away from cars and traffic

5. Find clear horizons – make sure you get a good view in all directions, as you might want to see a planet as it sets in the west, a galaxy as it rises in the east, or a nebula at its highest point due south

Geoff Cowley, managing director of cottages4you said: “The long dark nights mean this is the perfect time of year to get stargazing and with the Leonid shower this week and another scheduled for December, there’s lots to see. We have thousands of cottages across the UK, many located in rural areas with less light pollution and clear country horizons, the ideal conditions for discovering the natural beauty of our night skies.”

Other findings from the research include:

• Only a quarter of people correctly identified that there are eight planets in the solar system – Pluto was declassed as a planet in 2006
• 7 per cent of people thought Cupid was a planet
• 75 per cent of Britons couldn’t identify the names of well-known star constellation
• Only 12 per cent of people knew there are 88 constellations

Neuadd Y Bryn, Sarnau, nr. Ceredigion– property with telescope
Property Reference: W42664

Set in a beautiful holiday location near to Cardigan Bay, this property is within a short distance of the breathtaking grandeur of the Preseli Mountains. Both coast and countryside offer superb walking, while the Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire shoreline offer long stretches of steep cliffs, and small sandy coves. A wide variety of historical sites are also available close by.
Price: £528 for seven nights self catering accommodation arriving 4th or 11th December 2010, sleeps 9-11 people (from £6.86 pppn)

Lobster Ponds, Helmsdale – property with telescope
Property Reference: W41585

Situated right on the shoreline this property is ideally situated, enjoying panoramic views of the seascape. The living room and large kitchen/dining room look out across the bay, while a second living room upstairs is built in the form of an ’observatory’, complete with telescope and balcony.

Miles of shoreline walks are accessed directly from the property. The unspoilt fishing village of Helmsdale has a harbour as well as restaurants and shops. The area is renowned for its unspoilt beaches, wild and rugged coastline and traditional villages.
Price: £604 for seven nights self catering accommodation arriving 27th November 2010 or 8th January 2011, sleeps nine people with room for three pets (from £9.59 pppn)

South Bay Cottage, Saasaig, Teangue, Isle of Skye – property with observatory
Property Reference: SHC

In a superb position towards the southern end of Skye, this completely modernised 150-year-old cottage stands on the sea shore overlooking the Sound of Sleat, at a point highlighted as an outstanding viewpoint by Ordnance Survey. There are magnificent panoramic views northwards to Ben Screel, Loch Hourn and Knoydart, eastwards to Loch Nevis, and southwards to Ardmurchan Point. The holiday cottage itself stands in three acres of wild garden.
Price: £538 for seven nights self catering accommodation arriving 4th or 11th December, or £386 for four nights arriving 6th or 13th December. Sleeps six people with room for three pets (from £12.81pppn)

Whitelee Farm - Birch Cottage, Byrness Village, nr. Otterburn – property close to Kielder Water Observatory
Property Reference: 15841

Relax amid spectacular and dramatic scenery in this gloriously unspoilt part of Northumberland. Lying within the Northumberland National Park and enjoying panoramic views over Whitelee Fell National Nature Reserve, there are wildlife cameras which feed live pictures direct to the flatscreen TV in the cottage, so you can watch barn owls, badgers and other wildlife. Newcastle and Edinburgh are within an easy drive.
Price: £260 for seven nights self catering accommodation arriving 4th or 11th December, or from £150 for two nights arriving various dates in December. Sleeps four people with room for three pets (from £9.29 pppn)

Gardener’s Bothy, Glenprosen, by Kirriemuir, Angus – property close to Mills Observatory
Property Reference: SUU

At the heart of Glenprosen, one of the renowned ‘Glens of Angus’, lies the Balnaboth Estate. In its midst, this characterful holiday cottage offers a unique and magical holiday retreat for couples. Enjoy the seclusion of this beautiful glen - peaceful, relaxing, scenic - yet just a few minutes’ drive from bustling market towns and busy fishing harbours, as well as from the city of Dundee which offers many attractions for all the family including the Mills Observatory which is Britain’s only full-time public observatory with a resident astronomer.
Price: £275 for seven nights self catering accommodation arriving 4th or 11th December, or £194 for four nights arriving 6th or 13th December. Sleeps two people with room for one pet (from £19.64 pppn)

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