With stargazing you can discover an amazing range of objects in the night sky, from our Moon and planets, to far away galaxies. It is an relaxing activity to perform during the night with your family and friends.
Getting started is easy; if you are able to follow a map, then you will be able to find your way around a night sky.
When you are beginning you will need a good sense of a star chart. The chart will offer information on where to find the brightest stars and the main constellations at a specific time and place. You can download and print charts from SkyMaps.com or download an app for your smart phone.
Steps to Begin
- Find a good location that is isolated from the street and any house lights. Stray lights will make it a bit harder for you to see the fainter stars. Also, for this reason, avoid nights that have a full moon or a moon that has too much of a haze. Many lakes are located far from big cities, which cuts down on light pollution.
- Once you are outside, give your eyes 5-10 minutes to adjust to the dark. Use a red LED flashlight or even a white flashlight covered with a piece of red plastic. The red light will help preserve the sensitivity of your eyes, or “night vision” for viewing objects in the night.
- Pick a direction to begin. Rotate your chart so that the direction is at the bottom. Raise the chart over your head. The directions on your chart will correspond to the directions of the sky.
- Do not try to take on the whole sky at one time. Choose a quarter of your map, preferably one that has many bright starts or a large constellation like Ursa Major or Orion. Look up at that part of the sky that corresponds with the map. Make a connection with what you are seeing in the sky with what you see on your map.
- Learn a few stars at a time. Once you have identified a few of the stars and the constellations, move from what you have learned and go on to the next few.
- If you end up seeing an out-of-place star near the ecliptic, it is probably a plant. Since planets move around the sky almost on a daily basis, you will nee to consult a website or a smartphone app to figure it out.