The night sky is a whirlwind of activity, though you might not know it. Galaxies are zooming away, planets are gracefully falling around the sun, and stars twinkle brilliantly with the undulations of the atmosphere. How do you make sense of the madness and appreciate the beauty? Here’s how to begin stargazing and get the most out of the experience:
1. Download a stargazing app.
If you don’t know what any of those tiny pinpricks of light are, stargazing can be a little frustrating. The best way to learn is to gain knowledge bit by bit. To do this, download a stargazing app. There are tons in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store available for free. Choose the one that suits you, fire it up, and point it at the sky. The more often you head out with your app to observe, the faster you’ll learn where everything is. Before too long, you won’t need an app at all!
2. Find a comfortable place.
Yes, you could just stand outside and look up, but eventually your neck is going to cramp. Find an open space in your backyard where you can see a wide expanse of the sky and set up some chairs. Bring a warm drink and some blankets, sit back, and enjoy the show.
3. Choose a clear night, but avoid the full moon.
Ideal seeing conditions are when the sky is dark enough that even dim stars are visible and clear enough that no clouds obstruct your view. This combination can be hard to achieve during certain seasons and even more difficult if you live in the city. If you can, head out away from city lights on a night when the sky is clear. A full moon might look beautiful, and it certainly is, but if you want to see more stars the overwhelming brightness is not your friend.
4. Break out the binoculars before a telescope.
After spending some time getting used to the layout of the sky using a stargazing app, you’re ready to upgrade to either binoculars or a telescope. Telescopes are expensive and require a little finesse, so if you’re not ready to put in a lot of work you’re better off going for binoculars. Both can offer up some fantastic views. If you want to experience the power of a telescope but aren’t ready to shell out for your own, see if there are stargazing groups near you that you can join. Many observation groups bring telescopes to their outings and the members are more than happy to introduce members of the public to the incredible sights that appear with greater magnification.