Astronomy for beginners can include simple ideas, like learning to find stars with a telescope or learning the names of the planets. The famous astronomer Plato once said that astronomy “compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.”
When we look up at the sky, it looks endless. We know so much about it, but it still carries an air of mystery because we’re only able to explore it so much. The sky and space remain “the final frontier” because we may never be done exploring it. The wonderful thing about astronomy is that anyone of any age can learn from it.
Stargazing is one of the best ways to learn about astronomy and connect to the natural wonders of our world.
At Astro Junkies, our passion is the sky and everything it contains. Read on to learn our 12 best stargazing tips and start your journey exploring the skies the right way.
1. Find the Dark
The number one rule to experience the best stargazing is to get yourself to the darkest place near you.
If you live in a big city with a lot of light pollution, chances are you probably only see a handful of stars when you look up at the sky.
If you’re going to stargaze, it’s best to find a location that is as dark as possible. It should still work out if there is some light, just do your best to find the darkest location near you. It may be helpful to drive out of town.
Chances are you will still be able to do a small amount of stargazing in a city environment. The view will be limited, but you can still learn.
The rule of thumb is, the darker the environment, the more stars you will see!
2. Get To Know the Stars
What makes stargazing even better? Knowing what you’re looking at.
There are billions of stars, so it’s impossible to know all of them. What you can do, however, is teach yourself about the basic and most famous stars. You will find a sense of satisfaction when you look up and can name a specific star or constellation.
There are two ways to do this. You can buy or print a paper star chart that will act as a guide when you look up. It will help you recognize names and placements of stars and it will work even in areas with little to no reception.
You can also download a star chart app on your phone. You can use these anywhere you get reception.
3. Gear Up
Looking up at the stars with the naked eye is fun and satisfying on its own, but there is much to be gained from using equipment designed to give you a more up close and personal view.
Binoculars are a good way to get a better look at the stars, planets, and moon. You can find a pair of binoculars without breaking the bank as well and you will still get a great view of the sky.
A telescope is always a great way to look at the stars. It’s more of an investment than a pair of binoculars, but it can be worth it to purchase one if you are serious about stargazing. Do some research to find the best telescope for your purposes before buying.
Using either of these will help you familiarize yourself with specific stars and constellations even better.
4. Use a red Light
Any time we’re exploring our world at night it’s instinctual to want to bring a flashlight for safety and guidance.
A red light will be better for astronomy purposes. The white light of regular flashlights and from our cell phones will be disruptive to stargazing. A red light will help our eyes maintain their ability to detect faint objects in a dark atmosphere.
The good news is you don’t need to scour tool shops or the internet for a red flashlight. Simply cover your regular flashlight with red cellophane and that will work just fine!
5. Come Prepared
You may be focused on the stars, but don’t forget to bring everything you will need to stay comfortable during your stargazing outing.
You will be out in the dark, and possibly the cold. Make sure to bring plenty of healthy snacks, like nuts, that won’t keep you up all night once you’re done stargazing. Bring a thermos of a warm drink and a large bottle of water.
You will also want to bring a blanket, a jacket, and extra batteries for your flashlight.
6. Dealing With Dew
One thing to keep in mind if you are going to use a telescope or binoculars is that you will have to deal with dew. If your lenses get moist, you will not be able to see anything through your viewing devices.
To avoid a dewy lens, you can follow a few cautionary steps. First, always point your telescope or binoculars downward when you’re not using them.
Buy a large dew cap or shield that will help prevent dew from forming. Don’t directly and bring a cold device into a warm environment, as this will encourage dew to form.
You can also buy a dew heating band to help take care of the problem.
7. Timing Is Everything
Different times of year will change how and what you see in the sky. It will also change the amount of time you have to stargaze.
For instance, in the summer months, there will be fewer hours of total darkness for you to do your stargazing. During certain times of the year, certain constellations will be more viewable than at other times.
If you’re interested in viewing planets, make sure to check and see which planets are viewable during each time of year. Different plants are more viewable during different seasons.
The current moon phase also makes a difference. Stargazing during a new moon will guarantee a darker sky and easier stargazing. During a full moon, the sky will be brighter and less ideal for viewing.
8. Make It a Party
Make stargazing even more fun by making it into a party!
Grab a couple of friends and invite everyone to the same location. You can pass out star charts, share snacks and drinks, and even go the extra mile by serving star and moon-shaped treats!
Together, you can learn the various stars and constellations and help each other find each one that you are looking for. You can get creative and look for your zodiac sign constellations too.
9. Audio Entertainment
It can be an intense experience to be alone in total darkness, even with the company of everything in the night sky.
Bringing visual entertainment is a bad idea for this activity because it will disrupt the darkness with bright lights and be distracting. Even using your phone to pass the time will be disruptive. Unless, of course, you’re using it to use an astronomy app!
Download a soothing podcast to listen to while you’re exploring the skies. You can even choose to listen to a fun, educational podcast all about space to learn more while you observe.
You can also put together a soothing playlist to accompany you and set the mood.
10. Get Comfortable
Knowing how to stargaze while staying comfortable is the key to a satisfying and educational experience.
You’ll be out for an extended period of time, so choose whether or not you want to stargaze while laying down or sitting.
Laying down is best for stargazing with the naked eye or with a pair of binoculars. Bring a few blankets to lay on and another to cover yourself with if it’s cold.
Sitting will be the better option if you will be using a telescope. Make sure to get a comfortable chair that you know will feel good even if you are sitting for a few hours.
11. Check the Weather
One of the most obvious and easiest things to overlook when making stargazing plans is to forget about the weather.
Check your weather app, the local news, or a radio station to find out what the weather will be like on the day of your outing. Any signs of rain, fog, or incoming clouds will put a damper on your night and obscure your views.
12. Have Fun
The most important thing to remember about stargazing is that you can make it whatever kind of experience you want to be.
Don’t pressure yourself to have a specific kind of experience! If you want to simply lay back and look up without any tools, do that. If you want to pull out star charts and buy a telescope, that’s great too.
The important thing is that you want to look at the sky.
Go Beyond Astronomy for Beginners
It’s time to take these stargazing tips and put them to use!
Now you know how to create the perfect stargazing experience, and you can plan your next outing.
Make sure to check out our page at Astro Junkies, all about the planets and stars. Teach yourself even more beyond astronomy for beginners!