How To Have The Perfect Stargazing Experience
Stargazing is one of the oldest pastimes. It’s educational, romantic, awe-inspiring, relaxing – you name it. Plus, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to do it. Here are our 10 tips to achieve the perfect stargazing experience.
1. Get High Up
The first thing you need to do is get out of town. Light pollution is one of the enemies of stargazing. Even if you move away from the streetlights, light pollution can obstruct your view of the night sky. It’s also useful to get high up because you will be able to see more of the sky. It won’t be blocked by buildings, hills, or anything else. If you get the chance to visit them, these are some of the best places in the world to stargaze.
2. Buy A Comfortable Chair
Stargazing is not the sort of hobby you want to rush. That’s why we’d strongly recommend buying a comfortable chair. We recently reviewed the Nemo Equipment Stargaze Recliner, which is the ultimate stargazing recliner. It’s comfortable, well-built, and lets you sit at the perfect angle to look up at the night sky. However, if you don’t want to spend that much money, you could just buy a standard camping chair and/or a comfortable picnic blanket.
3. Buy Binoculars (Not A Telescope)
A common mistake amongst newbie stargazers is buying an expensive telescope. It stands to reason that the more money you spend on equipment, the better your experience. However, when it comes to astronomy, the equipment can be pretty confusing. A lot of compact binoculars can rival beginner telescopes, and they’re so much easier to use. Telescopes can require complicated setups and are often difficult to move around. Binoculars, on the other hand, can just hang around your neck and don’t require setting up at all.
4. Buy (Or Make) A Red Flashlight
If you want your stargazing trip to be successful, you need to be immersed in darkness. This will offer you the most unadulterated view of the cosmos, which will hopefully turn you into an avid astronomer. Inevitably, there will come a time when you need some light to see. This is where you’ll need a red flashlight. If money’s no problem, you can go to Amazon and buy a fit-for-purpose red flashlight. Or, if you want a DIY solution, just wrap some red cellophane around a standard torch and secure it with a rubber band. Red light doesn’t have the same effect on your eyes as white or blue light, so it won’t affect your stargazing experience.
5. Do Your Research And Plan When To Look
If you want to achieve the perfect stargazing experience, you’ll have to wait for the right moment. Stargazers refer to the period between October and March as Observing Season. Summer is often discounted by serious stargazers because the warm weather can bring hazy conditions that aren’t ideal for looking up at the night sky. However, even in the Observing Season, you need to do some planning. The moon also has a huge impact – when it’s full, it reflects the sun’s light and makes it almost impossible to see any stars. So, you should stargaze as close to a new moon as possible.
6. Look Online For A Star Chart
It’s romantic to just look up at the night sky and make up your mind about what you’re viewing. But after a while, you might start to want some real information. A star chart is the best tool in this situation. When you have found a cluster of stars in the sky, you can refer to your star chart (using your red light of course) and identify what you’re looking at. This will provide some educational basis for your hobby and make it far more interesting. You can find star charts online, but we’d go with a physical one.
7. Download The Right Apps
As with any hobby in the world now, there are hundreds of apps that go along with it. Some of the most useful are Stellarium, Starwalk and Google Sky Maps. These are all designed to give you a better idea of what you’re looking at in the night sky – but make sure you use a red light filter on your phone when you’re using them. We’d also recommend downloading the NASA app if you want to keep up to date on the latest missions and news.
8. Look Out For The International Space Station
The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the night sky, so it should be relatively easy to spot. It moves across the sky like a plane, just much higher and faster. The only problem is, you need to know where to look. Check out Spot The Station feature on the NASA website to find the coordinates, time, visibility, and other important information. You can also find out what’s going on at the International Space Station on the website.
9. Follow Astronomers On Social Media
It’s amazing that we live in a time that you can have constant access to some of the greatest minds in the world. Astronomy fans used to have to wait for programs like The Sky At Night to get their fix. Now, you can just browse Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to see what’s happening. There are hundreds of amazing astronomers on social media and following them should keep you abreast of any special events or updates in the scientific community. We especially recommend Professor Brian Cox on Twitter and astro_nicole on Instagram.
10. Learn The Difference Between Planets And Stars
Almost everything you can see in the night sky is a star. However, sometimes it’s possible to view some of the planets in our solar system – but you need to know which is which. An easy way to differentiate is to look if it sparkles, which means it’s a star. If it looks stationary and solid, it’s a planet. There are also more advanced ways of identifying the planets. For example, if you can identify the ecliptic belt (an imaginary belt which holds all the planets), you will often be able to find multiple different planets like Jupiter and Saturn.