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Night Time Is The Right Time For Stargazing With The Fam

Treat your family to a night under the stars, no reservation required.

Vera Sizensky · 5 months ago

  • travel
ferrantraite / Getty Images

ferrantraite / Getty Images

Not sure what to do tonight? Go outside and look up. There are about 1 billion trillion (seriously) stars waiting for you to gaze at them.

If this is your first time embarking on an astrological adventure, no worries. Here is a primer on everything you need to know about stargazing for beginners.

When To Stargaze

You can technically go stargazing any night, but if you follow the below guidelines, you’re in for a stellar experience

Timing Tips:

  • Keep the moon in mind. When the moon is full and bright, it tends to wash out the stars so only the brightest are visible. It’s best to time your stargazing for the days before, during, and shortly after each new moon.

  • Time of year does matter. You may think summer is the best season for stargazing, but it’s not. The skies take longer to get dark after sunset, so your viewing time is drastically cut short. Autumn, winter, and spring are better times to stargaze, especially the time from when clocks go back in October (nights become an hour longer) to the time they go forward in March (nights become an hour shorter).

It’s important to keep in mind that your eyes may take a little time to adjust to the dark, so give your peepers a few minutes before truly trying to take in the twinkling lights of the sky.

 Sirintra Pumsopa / Getty Images

Sirintra Pumsopa / Getty Images

Where To Stargaze

Try to set up your stargazing experience away from any light. If your area has a lot of house lights or buildings, it will wash out some of the stars. Aim for an open, dark area if you can.

What You Need

You don’t really need anything to go stargazing, but there are things you can bring that will help make your time more enjoyable. Consider the below when planning your night.

Stargazing Supplies:

  • Reclining lawn chairs

  • Blankets

  • Insect repellent

  • Warm clothes

  • Snacks

  • A star map (there are some awesome apps you can download)

  • Red-filtered flashlight (Used to examine any star charts or wheels. Astronomers use these because red light doesn’t affect your night vision as much as white light does.)

  • A compass (to find which direction is North)

  • Binoculars

  • A notebook (to sketch what you see in the sky)

  • Some stargazing music

What To Look For

What you’ll see depends on where you are, the time of the year, and the weather, but to get you started, here are some things to look out for:

The North Star

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Heeral Chhibber / CAMP

Use the “pointer stars” to find the North Star. These are the two stars in the cup of the Big Dipper. They are the farthest ones from the handle. If you draw a line through them, the line will point to the North Star.

The Milky Way

Every star you see when you look up is part of the Milky Way, which is just one of billions of galaxies in the universe. To see the Milky Way, you need to be in a very dark location. It is a thin, cloud-like band of light, stretching across the sky.

The Moon

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Heeral Chhibber / CAMP

Each night, the Moon looks a little different. It can be round or a sliver. It’s fun to take note of its shape.

Orion The Hunter

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Orion The Hunter

The three stars in the belt make Orion The Hunter easy to find.

Cassiopeia

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Heeral Chhibber / CAMP

The five bright stars in Cassiopeia form a W shape, or an M when the constellation is upside-down.

A shooting star

Rare, but so cool when you see one!

Planets

Planets look a lot like extra-bright stars, so telling stars from planets can be tricky. One clue is that planets don't twinkle like stars. To see what planets are currently visible in the night sky, check out this interactive night sky map.

Make up your own

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Heeral Chhibber / CAMP

Sometimes connecting the dots and creating your own vision in the stars can be more fun than spotting known constellations. Try it out!

If you need help, download a star chart app to help you identify what you’re looking at.

Make It Even More Fun

The whole point of this activity is to explore the sky together. Take turns pointing and drawing what you see. If you start keeping a star journal, you can compare your sky sights each time. You’ll be surprised how much things change.