Have you ever looked up at the night sky and scratched your head, unsure of what planets or stars you’re seeing? Have you ever dreamed of making a wish on a shooting star but couldn’t find one?
Stargazing is an inexpensive yet magical way to reconnect with nature. It could also be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare celestial events and explore the majesty of our natural world while also bringing science to life.
Looking up at the vast canopy of space is a moving experience that everybody can appreciate; however, apart from staring in the general direction of the night sky, knowing where to begin when stargazing can be challenging.
For several backyard astronomers, a night of stars is accompanied by specific rituals. So, whether you’re at a remote dark-sky location or just in your own backyard, we will help you make the list of essentials for your next stargazing expedition!
Binoculars, Eyepieces, and Telescope Accessories
When stargazing, some of the essentials that one shouldn’t forget are the dew shields, Barlow lenses, Moon filters, and of course, the nebula filters. Binoviewers are also recommended for a more spectacular 3D viewing experience. Meanwhile, binoculars, specifically the Celestron SkyMaster Zoom Binocular, are another great tool to observe the night sky up close.
These things will help you find stars that are not visible through the naked eye alone. Aside from the things mentioned above, it would be best if you also have Celestron tripods that come with an accessory tray.
It takes time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and allows you to see finer details through your telescope. While your eyes could eventually adapt in the dark, using a red flashlight could greatly improve your visibility. You may also add red lights to your tripod legs to prevent people from tripping over them in the dark. One important thing to note, always use red filters on any light-emitting device, such as your laptop or smartphone screen.
A green laser pointer can assist you in pointing out objects for everyone to see if you’re observing in a group. However, keep in mind that all laser pointer rules in your area must be followed.
Star Maps/Apps for Smartphones
Using star charts to navigate the night sky is a brilliant idea for a much easier star gazing experience. In fact, you can now choose between a paper star chart or a digital star chart. However, through the use of smartphones, you can now explore over 200 celestial objects that are described in audio format in the SkyQ app for iPhone and iPad.
Moreover, you may also use your mobile device to hand control your telescope with the new SkyQ Link. Another iPhone app you could use in stargazing is the app called Star Walk. It is an app that helps stargazers identify the constellation in the night sky. Meanwhile, Android users could have Google Sky Map, which offers the same feature.
Toolbox is a necessity in case something goes wrong and you need to make quick equipment changes. Aside from the repairing equipment, one should also have the cleaning tools to clean your lenses.
Level and Compass
If your tripod doesn’t come with a built-in level, a basic bubble level could help you save a couple of minutes in setting it up!
Additionally, if you’re looking for a specific constellation or star for the first time, a basic compass can help.
Warm Clothes, Foods, and Drinks
Make sure you bring enough warm clothing. Even on a lovely summer evening with clear heavens above, stargazing may feel chilly at any time of year. So, bringing warm clothing is always a good idea.
Moreover, it is also best to bring a comfortable mat or chair you can sit on as you observe the lovely night.
Lastly, food and drinks are also essential to fuel up yourself during the observations.
What Should You be Looking For?
Aside from stars, one of the celestial bodies you could look for is the moon. Although the moon is one of the nearest heavenly bodies we could look at, there have only been twelve persons who have ever stepped foot on it. Interestingly, because there is no wind on the moon, you would still be able to see their footsteps. So, grab your equipment because you might want to see that, too!
Moreover, did you know that the moon is in charge of all of the world’s oceans? Yes, and we get high and low tides because of the moon. Another fact is that people didn’t realize the moon wasn’t a perfect sphere until they saw it through binoculars. Its craters and uneven borders are visible on a clear night.
Given those facts, it only proves that the moon is just as interesting as stars. So, you might as well check it out, too.
The next thing that you could put on your list is, of course, the stars. It is said that when you stare at the stars, you are looking back in time. Since light takes time to travel, and stars are thousands of light-years away, you could be seeing a star that no longer exists.
Stars do not only appear at night because our very own Sun is also a star!
In fact, it is our nearest star, and you could put about one million Earth inside it if you hollowed out this burning ball of fire. However, it is not advised to look at the Sun directly through a camera, telescope, or binoculars despite its beauty. You will harm your eyes and may even go blind permanently if you do so. To project the image of the Sun, you can create a basic pinhole viewer instead.
More Tips Before You Start Your Star Gazing Trip!
- Check the moon phase before you start stargazing because it’s ideal to do it before the full moon.
- To reduce light pollution, turn off all of the lights in your home.
- Depending on the time of year or the time of night, the night sky changes frequently.
- Seasonal constellations can be found by stargazing at different periods of the year.
- You may find out what stars you can see from your current location by downloading an app like Star Walk or Google Sky; no need to go to luxurious places.