How to look at the stars: 12 useful tips for looking at the sky

man looking starsTips on how to move your steps under the stars … To not miss the most beautiful celestial events!

Several astronomical appointments are coming, including the highly anticipated partial lunar eclipse. But during the summer nights we will be able to see numerous phenomena including the Delta Aquarids, a July meteor shower. So having the right tricks to observe the stars and the beauty of the sky is a must to not miss the most interesting objects.

Here are 12 tips for observing the starry sky with the naked eye … and with the appropriate instrumentation.

Before leaving…man stars sky

  • Check the weather forecast – and the cloud radar map

What must certainly not be lacking is a clear sky. Therefore in advance of an evening under the stars it would be good to inquire about weather conditions also via the radar map of the clouds …!

  • Check the phase of the Moon: it is preferable that there is no full Moon

Whether at the sea or in the mountains, the presence of the Moon would limit the use of the night sky especially in the case of a full moon. This is the second brightest object in the sky, so it is better to avoid, to observe the stars, the presence of our satellite that would light up a large portion of the sky …

  • Inquire if there are phenomena to observe (shooting stars, oppositions, conjunctions) in order to plan the observation

It would be preferable, before an observational evening, to plan the small celestial tour. To get information so if conjunctions are planned, particular oppositions can be a good strategy! Also plan a “tour” of the constellations to identify with the naked eye to orientate among the stars!

During the observation of the stars…

  • Turn off your smartphone!

Some time before and during the observation of the sky, keeping your smartphone on at the same time can be counterproductive.

In fact it is advisable to keep it off or in any case away from sight because the light emitted by the device can compromise the vision of details of the sky, as the eye would soon become unaccustomed to the dim light of darkness.

A celestial map can be very useful for identifying stars and constellations. In addition there are several smartphone apps that allow the identification of stars, planets and deep sky objects.

  • Get a LED flashlight with red lights

It is important not to make the eye unaccustomed to darkness by acquiring red LED lights, which will allow us to have a light source available, without this affecting the correct view of the star drape.

Choose the place of observation …

  • Sea or mountain? Always in the company!

Surely the mountain is the favorite destination for amateur astronomers. The altitude and the absence of nearby cities make the evening more productive. However, even the mountain has some drawbacks such as the presence of higher mountains that “disturb” the view, trees that limit the observation. We therefore recommend to choose flat areas, or plateaus anyway. In which “to penetrate” always in the company of friends or loved ones!

  • Choose a place far away, whether it is sea or mountain, from the city lights

Light pollution is the main enemy of the observing evenings. So that as far as possible get away from light sources of any kind, and mainly from the cities, it will offer a privileged point of view to the astronomer for the observation of the celestial vault.

  • Find a high point with ample visibility

It is important that houses, mountains, trees or objects don’t obstruct the view. It would not be nice to miss the rising of Antares low on the horizon because there is a big tree that stands between us and the star!

Suitable clothing and equipment! sky telescope stars

  • Comfortable clothing suitable for night temperatures

It certainly cannot be said that the night temperatures in winter (as in summer) are very hot. Therefore, having optimal clothing and blankets is the right choice to avoid surprises and having to risk withdrawing from observation earlier than expected. Furthermore, bringing a blanket or a deckchair is ideal for staying comfortable and watching the stars.

  • Tools and equipment: binoculars, telescope

Equipping yourself with a small pair of binoculars can be the winning choice. You can admire the lunar craters, the four Medici satellites of Jupiter, some double stars and even, with 50mm binoculars, even double stars and star clusters. For the most passionate, instead, it is “obligatory” to bring along a small (or large) telescope. Refractor telescopes have a diameter ranging from 3.5 to 10 cm, while the reflectors range from 7.5 to 15 cm in diameter of the mirrors. One will be amazed, however, by the possibilities that an instrument of small dimensions can offer. You will be able to distinguish the details of the lunar surface, the four satellites of Jupiter and more distant objects such as nebulae and star clusters.

  • Camera

For the amateur astronomer it is interesting to try astrophotography. Therefore, having a suitable tool with a suitable stand can make us catch details of the night sky that would be invisible to the naked eye and to the telescope or binoculars.


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