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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Garner

Getting Started in Stargazing : Your Ultimate Starter Guide

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Believe me, stargazing is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. With Stargazing: you get a chance to observe the night sky, learn about constellations, and watch stars and planets move across the heavens. But where do you start? As you know, I was there not so long ago, which is why I decided to write a guide!

Helping others get started on their stargazing journey by providing them with all the essential tips, tricks, and special information is what I hope to accomplish through this post!

Sky Watching Tips For Beginners

Get a Sky Map

One of the best things you can do when starting out in sky watching is to get yourself a good sky map. This will help you to identify the different constellations and other celestial objects that you might see in the night sky. There are a number of different sky maps available, so be sure to find one that is suitable for your location and level of experience.

Use Binoculars or a Telescope

If you want to get a closer look at what you're seeing in the night sky, then you'll need to use either binoculars or a telescope. Both of these devices will allow you to see much more detail than the naked eye, so they're definitely worth investing in if you're serious about sky watching. If you're not sure which type of device to get, then ask an experienced sky watcher for advice.

Know When to Go Sky Watching

One of the most important things to remember when sky watching is that the best time to do it is during the new moon phase. This is because there will be no light from the moon to interfere with your view of the stars and other celestial objects. Additionally, it's generally advisable to go sky watching in an area with little light pollution, as this will also help improve your view.

Dress appropriately

When going out to do some sky watching, it's important that you dress appropriately for the occasion. This means wearing warm clothing as it can get quite cold at night, especially during the winter months. It's also a good idea to wear comfortable shoes and bring along a blanket or chair so that you can be comfortable while you're looking up at the stars.

Be patient

One of the most important things to remember when sky watching is that patience is key. It can take a while for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, so don't be discouraged if you don't see anything immediately. Give yourself some time and eventually, you'll start seeing all sorts of interesting things in the night sky!

My Top Tip For Beginners : Let Your Eyes Adapt to Darkness

When you want to go stargazing, you have to find a place away from city lights. Once you’ve found your observing site you’ll need to give your eyes time to get used to the darkness, or what we call “dark adaptation.”

I wasn't aware of this fact! - However, once I discovered it's an essential part of stargazing, I dug deep into it and found all the following information:

How long does it take for human eyes to fully adjust to the darkness?

It takes about 30 minutes for human eyes to fully adapt to darkness. That’s why we recommend finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down and relax for at least a half an hour before really starting your sky watch. During this time, avoid looking at any bright light sources such as your phone, a flashlight, or car headlights. You might also want to bring along a red-light flashlight so that you can see any materials you need without ruining your night vision.

What if I only have a short time to stargaze?

Okay! So if you don’t have 30 minutes to wait for full dark adaptation, there are still ways to make the most of your shorter stargazing session. First, try to position yourself so that you’re not directly facing any bright light sources like campfires or streetlights. Also, try shading your eyes with one hand while using your other hand to look at the stars. This will help reduce the amount of light entering your eyes and allow them to better adjust to the darkness. Finally, give yourself a few minutes to let your eyes adjust after looking at each object in the sky before moving on to the next one.

How to Choose Your Stargazing Site for Beginners Stargazers

For beginner stargazers, choosing a stargazing site can be an adventure. The sky can look different depending on your location, so it's important to have the right site for your sky watch session. My experience is that the best places for new stargazers are those with minimal artificial light pollution, a clear horizon and minimal cloud cover. To find such places, I recommend making a list of potential areas and then heading out on some test runs to compare their views of the night sky. Keep in mind that sites at higher elevations often offer better views due to decreased air pollution so they might be worth considering as well.

My Recommended Places for Stargazing In the US.

Helpful Tools For An Amazing Night of Stargazing

A Telescope

If you want to get a good look at the stars, you're going to need a telescope. There are a variety of telescopes available on the market, from small and inexpensive models to large and expensive ones. You'll need to decide what size and type of telescope is right for you based on your budget and needs. Check my recommended Telescopes here.

A Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is a type of telescope that is designed for terrestrial viewing. This means that it is ideal for looking at things like birds, animals, and landscapes. If you plan on doing any stargazing during your trip, a spotting scope can come in handy for getting a closer look at the stars.

A Binoculars

Binoculars are another tool that can be useful for stargazing. They are smaller and more lightweight than a telescope, making them easier to carry with you on your trip. Binoculars can also be used for things like bird watching and watching sporting events. For beginners, or new to stargazing - I highly recommend choosing a basic binoculars, they can do the work for you perfectly for the first couple of times !

A Tripod

A tripod is an essential piece of equipment for anyone using a telescope or spotting scope. A tripod will help to keep your telescope or scope steady, which is important for getting clear images of the stars. Without a tripod, your images will likely be blurry.

A Camera

If you want to take pictures of the stars, you'll need a camera that is capable of taking long exposure photographs. Most digital cameras will have this capability, but you may need to purchase a special lens if you plan on using an SLR camera.

A Computerized Star Chart - Nice To Have!

A computerized star chart can be a helpful tool for finding your way around the night sky. There are many different software programs available that can generate a star chart based on your location and time of year. This can be helpful if you're not familiar with the constellations.

Apps for Stargazing

One of the best ways to kickstart your stargazing hobby is by downloading astronomy apps such as SkySafari or Star Chart. They come with interactive 3D maps of the night sky, with which you can identify stars and constellations easily. You can also use these apps to stay up-to-date on astronomical events like meteor showers or lunar eclipses so that you don't miss out on any celestial fun!

Google Sky Map is a free app that uses your phone's GPS to pinpoint your location and show you a map of the night sky. You can then use the app to identify stars, constellations, and planets. The app also includes information on astronomical events, such as meteor showers and eclipses.

Star Walk 2 is a paid app that offers a similar experience to Google Sky Map. However, it also includes features such as a time-lapse mode and the ability to view the night sky in different wavelengths of light.

Night Sky is another paid app that offers similar features to Star Walk 2. However, it also includes an augmented reality mode that allows you to view the night sky through your phone's camera.

Sky Guide is a paid app that offers similar features to Night Sky. However, it also includes the ability to set up alerts for astronomical events, such as meteor showers and eclipses.

Stellarium Mobile is a free app that offers a 3D map of the night sky. You can use the app to identify stars, constellations, and planets. The app also includes information on astronomical events, such as meteor showers and eclipses.

Plan Your Stargazing Experience Today!

I feel as if I could write on and on about this new hobby of mine! - and I hope that with this guide, you'll be able to take on your first stargazing adventure with all the equipment you'll need. Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions or if you think there are any details that are missing in this post!

Finally, don't forget to enjoy yourself - take breaks during long nights of stargazing; relax and allow yourself time to appreciate what's around you! Now get out there as soon as you can, and start exploring!

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