Are you looking up from lockdown? 

Google got in touch with me today with the news that Google searches for stargazing have spiked by nearly 40% since March 22—lockdown week. However, there’s clearly a lot of online learning that needs to be done if some of the searches are anything to go by. 

Naturally, Google suggests that its Google Now virtual assistant can assist when stargazing by us saying things to our phones like: 

“Ok Google, set a reminder me for the April 27 when Venus is at its brightest”

Sensible. But this?

“Hey Google, is the sun a star or a planet?”

Do people really not know the answer to that? Spoiler alert: the Sun is most definitely a star!

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Back in October 2019 at the launch of the Google Pixel 4 smartphone the search giant revealed the results of a survey of 3000 British adults. It was conducted by 3GEM Research & Insights. Here’s what it found:

  • Over half (61%) of Brits do not know that our Galaxy is called the Milky Way.
  • 17% think the galaxy is called “Earth”.
  • A fifth of Brits (20%) believe the Sun is a planet.

However, Google research also uncovered a flourishing interest in astrophotography, with searches for the topic growing 29% year on year. 

The spike is in interest in the night sky is perhaps not so surprising. More people are looking for ways to fill their time, and getting into an outdoor area or backyard after dark to look up is a great way of getting outside and away from smartphones, social media and the news. 

After all, stargazing is a great way of de-stressing. Isn’t that why we do it? 

The spike in stargazing searches comes at a really great time for anyone interested in getting to know the night sky.

Here are 10 reasons why now is a great time to go stargazing

  1. Warmer spring nights are now upon us.
  2. Much of the northern hemisphere blessed with clear skies this week.
  3. There’s a New Moon today, which means dark skies for the weekend.
  4. A meteor shower—the Lyrids—peaks this week after midnight.
  5. Fewer vehicles on the road during lockdown means air pollution is less than normal in some areas.
  6. It’s International Dark Sky Week.
  7. Venus is at its brightest for years next week. 
  8. It’s the Eta Aquarid meteor shower on May 6/7
  9. A “Super Flower Moon” is coming on May 7—the final “supermoon” of 2020. 
  10. There’s a “Strawberry Moon Eclipse” on June 5.

Has there ever been a better time to look up at the night sky?

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.