Lying under the night sky and gazing up at the distant galaxies above is just about the best nocturnal activity you can do on an outdoor adventure (well almost, but let’s not go there). Here’s your ‘how to’ guide to stargazing for beginners...
Australia has some of the darkest night skies in the world and is the envy of astronomers the world over.
Not coincidentally, Aboriginal Australians are even credited with being the world’s first astronomers and have been using the stars and planets to tell seasons and explain natural phenomena like tides and eclipses for thousands of years.
One of the things I love the most about stargazing are the types of conversations that it sparks. It’s hard to look at the distant galaxies above without stirring up thoughts on the meaning of life and philosophies about our very existence.
To get you started on your nocturnal adventures, here are ten tips brought to you by the wonderfully named Galaxy Girl, aka Carol Redford from the Stargazers Club, WA.
So next time, you’re out in the wild, don’t forget to look at the skies above. It’s even better if you can coincide your outdoor adventure with a meteor shower.
#1 Get Dark
Find the darkest place you can. Stargazing is best under the darkest night sky you can find. White light blocks starlight from view.
#2 Minimise Light Pollution
Travel away from city lights if possible. If you can’t, turn out as many lights as possible including TV’s and computer screens.
#3 Hike To That Horizon
Find the biggest sky you can. Trees and buildings block the view, so find somewhere you can see from horizon to horizon. Open spaces, hilltops and the beach are great places.
#4 Be Well Adjusted
Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for 5-10 minutes. As your eyes become used to the darkness, you will start to see better. This is your night-time vision! If you need light, use a piece of red cellophane to cover a torch. Red light doesn’t affect your night time vision.
#5 Get Comfortable
Find a comfy place to lie back. That way you won’t get a stiff neck from looking up while standing!
#6 Look Out
Watch for moving things in the night sky. Meteors (shooting stars) look like bright, fast streaks of light. Satellites (like the International Space Station) look like a star that moves slowly and steadily across the night sky. Aeroplanes have flashing green and red lights.
#7 Join The Dots
See if you can make pictures out of the stars. People have been doing this for thousands of years. There are 88 named constellations. Do you know any of them?
#8 It’s Not Black And White
See if you can see different coloured stars. Most look white in colour but others may appear yellow, orange or red.
#9 Get Focused
Use a pair of binoculars if you can and take a closer look. What might look like faint milky white smudges of light turn out to be countless numbers of stars!
#10 Don’t Forget A Beverage!
Cool drinks in summer and hot chocolate to share with friends and family in winter are a must.