Beginner’s Guide to Unlocking the Magic of Stargazing

A woman looking up at the Milky Way.

Are you interested in joining the stargazer bandwagon! (Image: Biletskiy via Dreamstime)

Are you interested in joining the stargazer bandwagon! Well, for that, you do not have to spend a lot of money on buying equipment such as CCD cameras and powerful telescopes. However, you need to be prepared and learn the basics well. Here is a beginner’s guide to stargazing to help you on your journey and unlock the magic of stargazing.

Getting prepared

This is basic but important. Based on where you live and what time of year it is, you will need the apt type of clothing to indulge in stargazing. The night-time temperature may dip in open places more than you expect. Besides, there can be drizzles sometimes. So make sure you wear protective and warm attire to evade catching a cold. Wearing socks, gloves, and a cap may be necessary.

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Picking the site

This is quite important. You may feel like your rooftop or garden in the backyard may suffice, but that is usually not the case. The garden may be encircled by other buildings, trees, etc. The pollution and smog may act as a cover and affect your stargazing to an extent. It would be ideal if you could get away from urban regions. Stay away from places where there is light pollution to ensure stargazing can be done properly. A dark and serene place in the countryside is ideal.

Stay away from places where there is light pollution to ensure stargazing can be done properly.
Stay away from places where there is light pollution to ensure stargazing can be done properly. (Image: un-perfekt via Pixabay)

Getting your eyes ready

You just can’t start stargazing anytime, even at night. Your eyes should be given enough time to get accustomed to the darkness. Astronomers call it dark adaptation. On average, you will need 30 minutes for that to happen. Refrain from using your phone as it will affect your night vision.

Getting started

With the naked eye, you can spot the planets, including Saturn. The brightest planet is Venus. It is the Morning Star. When your eyes are adapted to night sky watching, you will be able to spot so many stars gradually. You will find some stars are brighter than others. The color of light will not be the same as well. Some stars have a bluish hue while others have an orange or reddish tint.

Finding star patterns

After observing stars and other objects in the night sky for some days, you will be able to find star patterns up there! These are called constellations by astronomy experts. However, you cannot spot all of the 88 constellations by your naked eye alone. 

Fir trees at night.
After observing stars and other objects in the night sky for some days, you will be able to find star patterns up there! (Image: via Pixabay)

Star, meteors, and planets

You can spot both stars and planets in the night sky, but how to differentiate between them? The answer is simple — stars twinkle, but planets do not. Stars serve as light sources. Then there are the meteors or shooting stars. These are space dust getting burned up in the atmosphere. Sometimes, meteorites drop on the ground.

All stars seem to be moving owing to the Earth’s rotation. However, the sole exception is the Pole Star, or Polaris. It stays fixed in one place as it is aligned with the axis of the Earth. The constellations change as the Earth completes its orbit around the Sun. As every season has its constellations, you will need a long time to learn the constellations well. 

Using technology

While with practice and patience you will be able to spot many stars and planets in the nocturnal sky, there is no harm in using technology to help. You can try some of the popular stargazing apps. However, reduce the device’s screen brightness. The apps that you can pick from include Stellarium Mobile Free, Star Tracker, SkySafari, Heavens, and Mobile Observatory Free. Of course, there are paid versions of these apps too. 

Summing it up

So you can see that stargazing is a hobby that does not require spending a lot of money, but you will need a certain amount of knowledge and be prepared. You will have to be patient as well. Of course, those with deep wallets can invest in telescopes and explore more celestial objects with ease. If you do not have much money, investing in a good pair of binoculars is helpful. 

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