Watch a ballet of shooting stars, use a telescope to look for constellations or embark on an interstellar journey to Mars. This summer, different exhibitions and stargazing evenings in and around Monaco allow you to do all of this and more. Discover the best spots to see the starry night sky…

Up in the mountains of Èze, the organisation Parsec is teaching both adults and children how to spot constellations, from their open-air venue Astrorama in the fort de la Revère. “Jupiter was the first planet I was able to see using one of their telescopes,” says Anaïs Dorne, the organisation’s community manager, who is still in awe of this “magical moment”.

From Indian legends to myths dating back to ancient civilisation, the sky is bursting with stories, and sometimes even surprises too. “On some nights, the outline of  a swan appears,” says Anaïs Dorne, referring to a constellation that Greek astronomers were already studying back in the second century.

To see the Milky Way, you need to head into the mountains, into the hinterland: at night, a group of clouds form, which is actually made up of layers of stars.

Pierre Cruzalèbes, in charge of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)

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A basic pair of binoculars is all you need

Sadly, light pollution is affecting the stargazing experience as at night “a thick yellow fog floats above Nice, which is visible from the Astrorama.” “The Côte d’Azur is a damaged area. You can’t see the sky anymore and you can barely make out a handful of stars,” says Pierre Cruzalèbes, in charge of research at CNRS and President of the organisation Provence Sciences Techniques Jeunesse, based in the Sophia Antipolis technology park in France.

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“To see the Milky Way, you need to head into the mountains, into the hinterland,” explains the scientist. “At night, a group of clouds form, which is actually made up of layers of stars.” It is only by escaping the bright city lights and the foggy weather that we can see the true beauty of our galaxy.

Originally from Nice, this researcher gets to look at giant stars through one of the world’s largest telescopes, in the middle of the Chilean Atacama desert. Here, “the moonscape of stone and sand provides the best views.” Whilst he travels the world to see the stars, this astronomer still believes that stargazing is accessible to all, no matter where you live. According to him, “a basic pair of binoculars is all you need.”

A ballet of shooting stars

Pierre Cruzalèbes is also helping prepare for the Astro Valberg festival, taking place from the 9 to 11 August in the Alpes-Maritimes department. A free event, participants can enjoy visits to the planetarium and evenings spent stargazing, at the heart of the Valberg village, perched 1700m high in the mountains, and also a part of the Alpes Azur Mercantour International Dark Sky Reserve.

As for the starry night event, this year marks the 31 edition and will take place from the 6 to 8 August. Celebrated annually by many astronomy clubs all over France, the shooting stars that usually cross the sky at this time of year will once again entertain guests.

The Universarium at the Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice / © Eva Rouland

An interstellar journey from Nice

Located in Nice, the Côte d’Azur Observatory is offering visitors an immersive experience with a scientific exhibition in their Universarium. “A fun and interactive space situated below the big dome designed by the famous engineer Gustauve Eiffel in 1887,” says Marc Fulconis, Head of Communications at the Côte d’Azur Observatory.

This immersive experience allows us to better understand the distance between different elements of our solar system, as well as realise just how small we are in the universe.

Marc Fulconis, Head of Communications at the Côte d’Azur Observatory.

Whilst a captivating film plays, visitors embark on an interstellar journey, watching as Mars’ landscapes pass beneath their feet. “This immersive experience allows us to better understand the distance between different elements of our solar system, as well as realise just how small we are in the universe,” explains Marc Fulconis.

For more information, you can find the programme for these open-air evenings on Parsec’s website, astrorama.net, as well as via the website for the organisation Provence Sciences Techniques Jeunesse, www.pstj.fr. Prepare for your visit to the Côte d’Azur Observatory and its Universarium, here.

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