Stargazing enthusiasts with a vested interest in seeing as much of the night sky as possible will find they may need a little help in tracking down celestial objects. A few tools are needed to be able to see more than just a few specks of light visible with the naked eye. Fortunately one does not need to break the bank to enjoy this activity on a hobby level.
First and foremost we need to be able to find certain stars or planets in the sky. This may not be as easy as just craning our head up and staring. Stars and planet move around and one constellation might be in a different place in the summer as it is in the winter. To be able to find what to look at, we need a star chart.
Nowadays there is no need for paper charts with confusing instructions as to where to set our sights. Now it is as simple as taking a smartphone out and asking it. Star chart app are a dime a dozen, many of which are free to use. To that will be a nice way to feed your curiosity and save your money at the same time.
Depending on your location, this activity may be done outside. Of course, not everyone has a garden or a close to home dark spot to settle into and watch the stars, but assuming you do, you will need to get there. If the dark spot if in your back garden, turning on the outside bright light is not a good idea. Our eyes need to get adjusted to the darkness so that we may better see the objects we want.
Instead of stumbling there in the dark, there is a neat solution, a red flashlight. Red light does not impair our eyes’ ability to adjust to the darkness and so we can see where we are going and, not disturb the precious moments of slight night vision we can get.
It is also a useful option to set up a red filter on our phone, so that we may use the star chart app without resetting the night vision mode our eyes need. This too can either be set from the phone’s setting or by installing a blue light app to ensure the function.
A comfy spot
Based on when and where we choose to begin stargazing, a few items might be needed to ensure cosiness. It may be winter it may be summer, some celestial events happen when the weather is a little extreme on the temperature side or the precipitation side. Check the cloud coverage and chances of rain before embarking on setting everything up and then realizing nothing can be seen.
If the temperature is an issue and the sky is clear, you may still want to try and spot something in the sky, so prepare. If it’s cold, grab a jacket, sleeping bag or blanket, and some hot tea. If it’s warm, get some insect repellent, a comfy seat, and a cold drink.
Here is where most of us can stop and enjoy the sky. Many interesting stars and objects can be seen with the naked eye if you know where to look and how they look like. For those that want to go a little further, here is where the most sought after tool for stargazing comes into the fold; a telescope.
A better view
Before embarking on deep-dive research into telescopes, a simpler cheaper tool to use would be binoculars or monocular. These two are very easy to use, and light so they can effortlessly be carried out for a fast setup into an evening of watching the stars. The moon, be it full or partially illuminated, will look absolutely splendid with a pair of binoculars. Depending on the time of year and what events may unfold in the sky, binoculars can offer a closer view. One can find the international space station, see the Pleiades, or witness shooting stars. Certain constellations, like Orion and Ursa minor or major, will also be more easily observed.
An even better view
Last but not least, an avid stargazer will dream of having a telescope. Many of them are not cheap so in many cases, it will be a bigger investment. Upon the slightest research into telescopes, a few different types will emerge.
There are refractor telescopes that have a convex lens at the tip o an optical cylinder. This is the most recognisable telescope, the one everyone thinks of when bringing up the topic. Light goes into the telescope through the lens and comes out the bottom through the eyepiece.
There are also reflector telescopes that utilize mirror, instead of glass lenses, to condense the focal point toward the eye peace. The mirrors are shaped into curves and there are usually more than one. The interior machinations resembling that of a camera lens.
Electrical circuitry is also present in the design of many telescopes nowadays so that the moving objects in the sky can be easily and automatically followed by internal software. A star, nebula or constellation won’t stay in the same spot all night, unless it’s Polaris, so a little help in tracking it will go a long way.
All in all, stargazing as a hobby is a fun way to get in touch with the natural world outside our world. The many small dots in the sky have a story, and the empty darkness of space that incorporates them may be hiding objects with their own story.