A lot of people might think stargazing is more of a summer activity but in my case whenever I’ve tried to get some good time out under the stars during the summer I always end up eaten alive by mosquitos and other summertime creepy crawlies (shudder). So now I usually save my nighttime skywatching for the cooler months when most of those little buggies have packed it in for the winter.
Stargazing is hardly a new pursuit. Stargazers have been exploring the beauty of the night sky in many ancient cultures like Ancient Egypt and Hellenic Greece. Sailors consider it an essential skill to be able to read and navigate via the night sky.
Since I come from sailor stock, my dad (who’s father was a sailor), passed on the basics of stargazing and it’s become one of my favorite fall activities, especially when we pack a picnic lunch and go to a dark sky location for some snacks and stargazing.
Many people think that stargazing is super complicated and impossible but with a few starter tips anyone can know what to look for and be able to find their way around the night sky.
Here’s some beginner tips to try out on your first night stargazing:
- Even though there are thousands of stars in the night sky, the sky itself is only broken up until 88 constellations (Pictured below)
- Skip the telescope! Unless you’re looking into getting astronomy as a regular hobby you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. If you want to get a closer look binoculars work pretty well, and if you don’t have those, using your own eyes is just fine!
- First bit of stargazing anyone can do is check out the phases of the moon. The moon on most clear nights is very visible and is a good starting point to look for other constellations.
- If you want some help finding your way around the night sky it helps to have your own map! StarDate magazine has star charts and maps of the night sky to help you do this. You can also get a simple stargazing book or star wheel and start there.
- And if you really don’t want to do any of that and you feel like cheating a bit, the Google Skymaps App on Android phones is really awesome and will show you where certain constellations should be. If you want to use it with your sky chart to help you through your first night of stargazing that’s also a great idea!
- Above all make it fun! Bundle up get some pillows and blankets, pack something tasty to eat and a thermos of hot chocolate and just embrace that crisp air that ONLY comes around in Autumn.
My favorite constellation is Orion because his belt is so easy to spot and there’s a small galaxy in it as well. Do you have stargazing pro tips? Favorite constellation? Let me know in the comments!