A pink and green band of northern lights stretches out across the sky over the Hotel Rangá Observatory.

Stargazing Facts and Secrets

Filled with twinkling stars and distant planets, humans have always been fascinated by the night sky. So we decided to create a list of fun facts and secrets about the stars, ranging from mythical to scientific. Keep reading to learn how the Milky Way got its name, why Hotel Rangá is a great place to stargaze and much more.

With the endless summer days of the midnight sun far behind us, stargazing season is in full swing at Hotel Rangá. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and find out what the cosmos has in store for you in Iceland this winter with some fun stargazing facts.

Four people stand underneath the night sky filled with green northern lights and stars.
Visitors look up and stare in awe at the incredible night sky.

Got Milk?

The Milky Way galaxy gets its name from Greek mythology. As the story goes, Zeus had a son with a mortal woman. Then, he tried to trick Hera into breastfeeding the child. She was not so keen on the idea, of course, so her breast milk sprayed into the heavens and… well, you get the picture.

View of the far-off rosette nebula photographed in the Hotel Rangá Observatory in south Iceland.
View of the far-off rosette nebula photographed in the Hotel Rangá Observatory in south Iceland. Photo by Gísli Már.

It’s All Greek To Me

Thanks to modern science, we now know that the Milky Way galaxy is not the doing of an angry Greek goddess. Instead, our celestial home contains about 400 billion stars, nearly 5000 of which we can see with the naked eye.

A pink and green band of northern lights stretches out across the sky over the Hotel Rangá Observatory.
Our Rangá Observatory has two high-tech telescopes. Photograph by Paige Deasley.

The Winter Way Is The Only Way

You won’t see those stars in the middle of summer in Iceland due to the nearly 24-hour daylight from the seasonal tilt of the planet. In fact, the night sky is only visible to us from September to April. Perhaps that is why in Iceland we call the Milky Way Vetrarbrautin, or “The Winter Way.”

Northern Lights

Why is Hotel Rangá one of the best places in Iceland to see the Northern Lights? Click to learn more.

Stargazing Facts: Darkness Is Golden

Another thing blocking you from seeing all those twinkling stars? Light pollution. According to the UN, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. What’s more, this proportion is expected to grow to over 65% by 2050. Thankfully for city and suburb dwellers, Hotel Rangá’s secluded countryside setting offers a glare-free view to dark, clear night skies.

Woman stargazing in the Hotel Rangá Observatory underneath green northern lights.
Our Hotel Rangá Observatory features two high-powered telescopes. Photo by Milan and Seila.

Stargazing Facts: Creatures In The Sky

There are 88 officially recognized constellations, of which 50 to 56 can be seen from Iceland. The groups of stars in constellations act like a map of the sky, forming patterns and shapes. Look up at the night sky, and you will see lions, birds, monsters and, of course, mythical Greek gods. What’s more, the constellations actually help us to locate planets and other deep space objects.

Hotel Rangá luxury hotel underneath a starry night sky in south Iceland, perfect for stargazing.
Hotel Rangá is far from light pollution, making it an amazing location for stargazing.

Belts: The Best Winter Accessories

One of the easiest constellations to see in Iceland is Orion, with its 3 easily identifiable stars that form Orion’s Belt. As for northern lights seekers, you will be pleased to know that Iceland sits squarely in the aurora belt. This is an area of the northern hemisphere with intense aurora activity.

Hotel Rangá offers a northern lights wake-up call service. Photograph by Stefan Liebermann.

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    A glass of red and white wine beside a vase of lupine at the luxury Rangá Restaurant.