When I was 13 or 14 my school sent us on an astronomy camp near Port Augusta, South Australia. Seeing the rings of Saturn through a telescope for the first time was a huge thrill, but what I remember most is simply the skies at night. The camp was timed near the new moon, so the moon set early and after that: darkness. But looking up, so many stars! If you've lived in the city all your life you won't believe how many you can see just with your naked eyes.
I've shown people photos like the one below and they assume it's some long-exposure shot to bring out all the stars. But when the skies are dark enough, this is actually what you see. This shot contains not only part of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, but also two other galaxies: the Magellanic Clouds at the bottom right.
If you'd like to see a sight like this yourself, you'll need to get beyond the light pollution of cities and towns. Light pollution causes the air itself to glow with reflected light, crowding out the faint stars and galaxies. The Light Pollution Map combines Bing map data with light pollution data from satellites and lets you explore the dark skies. You don't need to go as far as Outback Australia, but if you're in Western Europe you'll need to choose carefully.
That's all for this week. Have a great weekend, and we'll be back here on Monday. Enjoy the dark skies!