Tips on Star Gazing
Plan your Activity
Success of any Stargazing activity depends on a lot of factors. One small miscalculation and you may end up spoiling your activity. To avoid this problems, one must plan the stargazing activity properly. Here are some things to help you with it:
- Know the weather - Success of any stargazing activity heavily depends on the weather. Therefore you may want to plan your activities based on the most reliable weather forecasters in your area. You should avoid setting the date of activity on a rainy or cloudy night.
- Know the celestial events - Stargazing can be more special and memorable if you schedule it on a night wherein there are celestial events like meteor shower or eclipse. So you might want to search up celestial events in the internet and check if it is visible in your area. (links below)
- Find a suitable area - In finding a suitable area, you must consider a relatively dark place; a place with no other (or minimal) light source other than the stars because heavy lights diminish the visibility of the stars. You also must consider the visibility range of the sky, thus you should consider highly elevated places so there will be no tall structures blocking your views.
Things you will need
Just going to a suitable place and staring in the night sky might be enough, but since you are already there, why not maximize the experience? Here are some items you want to bring:
- Sky map - As its name suggests it is a map of the night sky. It shows constellations, stars and other heavenly objects that you can see for the month it also has a sky calendar wherein you will see what is special or some thing to look out for at the day of the stargazing activity. It also has a list of what you can see with the naked eye, with binoculars or with the telescope if you happen to bring one. There are also sky map applications you can download to your mobile phone if you happen to have one. (Links below)
- A flashlight, torch or any device with lighting function - Unless your sky map is in your phone you might want to bring a lighting device to see your print out sky map (image below). You will also need it to check the area since you might have chosen a dark place.
- A companion - Stargazing is better if have a companion with you, may it be a friend, a lover or a family member. Lets not limit it to humans, you may also bring your pets, I always bring my dog to this kind of activity and believe it or not he likes to gaze at the stars just like me. But if you really want to stargaze alone then its all good too.
- Back - up plan - As I mentioned previously, stargazing activities depends heavily on the weather. And sometimes weather forecasts, no matter how reliable, fails to predict the weather. In times like these, you must have a back-up activity, so there is something to do even if its rainy or cloudy.
Optionals - the items mentioned above is just about everything you need for a quality stargazing experience but if you want it to get more interesting then you might want to bring these:
- Green lasers - It is hard to communicate on which star you are pointing to or which constellation you are referring to. Aside from the fact that it is dark, when you point at something it is only your point of view not your friends'. Thus, to avoid confusion you might want to bring a green laser. Okay, any laser color will do but since green is the most visible color for the human eye (yellow-green to be exact) it is the most advisable color to use.
- Binoculars - Obviously, binoculars or any other magnification gadgets (like telescope) will help you see heavenly bodies better. There are also heavenly bodies that can be seen with binoculars that the naked eye cannot.
- Camera - You might want to capture special moments and simple things that caught your attention while stargazing . This will make reminiscing memorable and maybe if you're lucky you might catch a shooting star or something even more special in your pictures.
- Food and drinks - Since you are going out and will spend quite some time outdoors then you might want to bring food and drinks. But please be mindful on how you dispose your trash you may also bring a trash bag if needed.
- Portable matt, bed or anything to lay your back on - For me lying down on a flat or a semi-inclined surface, is the best way to view the night sky. Well it might vary for each of us but having somewhere clean to sit on or somewhere to lye down when your tired can bring a lot of comfort while stargazing.
Here are some activities to
- Play the "find it" game - This game is perfect for skymap beginners, the game master will tell a certain constellation, star or any heavenly body and the participants race to find it with the aid of the skymap. The game master however, must be certain that the celestial body he/she says is visible at that time.
- Play the "name it" game - This game is for people who have spent some significant amount of time in stargazing or significant knowledge in astronomy. The game master will point out the heavenly body (stars, constellation etc.) and the participants (one at a time) will try to guess what it is. If the participant does not answer the question then he/she will be out of the game. The questions will get harder and harder over time and the last man standing will win.
- Focus competition - This is for hardcore astronomers that has scopes and a decent camera. The game master will tell an heavenly object (moon, stars, constellations, etc.) and the participants will focus the object with their scopes and take a picture of it with their camera. The game master will then judge who took the best picture.
For the games stated above, you can add consequences for losers and/or reward for winners to make the game more competitive and fun.
- Tell astronomy related stories - This activity is perfectly suited if you have children among your group. You can research stories or make up stories about stars or constellations telling their background myth or relationship with each other. This activity makes constellations easier to memorize.
Bonfire! - One of my favorite activities is gathering near the bonfire. Here we sing songs, roast food, and tell stories among ourselves. This is perfect to fight the outdoor cold and to light up a dark location. Even though it is another light source, it will not hinder stargazing activities as long as you keep it low.
Share your thoughts
There aren't many articles about stargazing, so please hit the comments for your thoughts or if you thought of more activities to do on a stargazing night:)