The best stargazing spots in London
New to novas and nebulas? No worries. Team up with local astronomy group Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society who put on regular events introducing amateur sky-searchers to the world of stargazing. The gang dish out tips and give informal talks about the constellations at a variety of events at different London locations throughout the year, including public stargazing events - where if the clouds keep away you’ll be able to treat your eyes to a survey of the sky through a host of different telescopes, guest lectures and workshops.
Keep an eye on their website for a full programme of their latest events.
Get starstruck with a 360° tour of the night sky at the Peter Harrison Planetarium, where a state-of-the-art digital laser projector shines the heavens on the inside of the roof like an astronomical Imax. All you have to do is lie back and gasp as an astronomer points out which stars are spinning above your head. Glimpse constellations, planets and moons, and fly out to the edge of the visible universe. We’ll forgive you if you take a selfie straddling the Prime Meridian line.
Weekdays 4.15pm, weekends 11.45am, 2pm and 4.15pm. £8.
Starmen and gals can get their celestial kicks on Blackheath Common, where the Flamsteed Astronomy Society set out their collection of telescopes once a month for some serious stargazing. As long as the night remains crisp and clear, they’ll be proving that light pollution can be beaten by pointing out Mars, before focusing on the sparkling constellation of Orion and the Milky Way’s very special Orion Nebula. We reckon Bowie would approve.
Monthly depending on weather – check ahead that session is still on. Free.
It may not be as famous (or as old) as its Greenwich counterpart, but this little observatory in south London is still a stellar spot to go starry-eyed over belts and dippers. Every Saturday (in good weather) the site is opened to the public, so Londoners can have a mosey around its domes and 14-inch telescope while getting a look at all the astral razzle-dazzle. The observatory is kept cold and dark to facilitate sparkler-spotting, so wrap up warm and bring a torch.
Every Sat in good weather. Free entry, check details for the session in advance.
Don’t know your azimuth adjustment knob from your counterweight thumbscrew? The Walton Astronomy Group are on the case. Newbie astronomers can learn how to use a telescope and get a good look at the night sky on the green in Esher’s West End village where the astronomy set hold their regular monthly meetings. They'll show you how to get your scope it up and running and if you’re lucky enough to pick a clear night, they’ll happily show you all the sparking sights that can be seen, including the Orion Nebula M42, the Pleiades, aka the Seven Sisters (not the tube stop), and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Meetings usually take place on a Thursday around New Moon, but check their website for confirmed dates.
Another group of city astronomers sticking two fingers up at the bright city lights are The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers. The cosmic club meet monthly at The Hub café in Regent’s Park – which doesn’t look too far off a Martian spaceship itself – to prove that if you have the right tools and expertise you can still see stars within the city limits. On clear nights, the group have managed to spot every planet in the solar system and spied glimmers as far away as the Whirlpool Galaxy in deep space. Whether you have stargazing experience or not, everyone is invited to the meet-ups to have a peer through a telescope or two and catch some constellations.
Visit www.bakerstreetastro.org for details of monthly meetings. Free.
Light pollution is the nemesis of all stargazing Londoners, but at 125 acres, the huge meadow at Morden Hall Park is big enough to escape the glow of the city. During the day you’ll find handsome avenues of trees and winding waterways in the ancient hay meadow, but come nightfall the grassy patch frames an expanse of inky, velvet blackness, one of the closest things to a legit Dark Sky site you’ll find in the capital. Pick a clear, cloudless winter night, close to the new moon – it’s the best time to track twinklers – and have your very own stargazing sesh. Who’d have thought a short stint on the Northern line would take you out of this world?
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...