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Night Sky Stargazing: Resources For The Stars

Night Sky Stargazing: Resources For The Stars

Have you ever wandered outside at night and had your breath taken away by the beauty of the night sky? The wonder and beauty of nature are magnificent and are most evident on a clear night when you can look up into an inky black sky and see thousands upon thousands of stars. In fact, our Milky Way Galaxy alone probably contains 100 thousand million stars

Simply gazing up at the stars may be enough for you, but you may also find yourself wondering exactly what stars you’re looking at. Do they have names? Are there specific arrangements, or constellations, that you can spot from your location? If these questions sound familiar, this article will help you make the most out of your stargazing tonight--and maybe even learn a little something as you observe. 

Turn Out the Lights

This may go without saying, but if you really want a good view of the stars: turn off the lights. This is much easier to do in rural areas than in heavily populated cities. 

If you’re in a city that’s never really dark, you may want to schedule a short road trip to a public park outside of town. That will give you your best shot at an amazing stargazing opportunity. And be sure you pick a clear night with few clouds!

Check Out the Night Sky Network

NASA does some pretty cool stuff. While we might not all be lucky enough to hop onto the next rocket launched into space, we can access some helpful info about space and the stars right online. 

Astronomy clubs in the United States have banded together to create The Night Sky Network, which is a “nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy clubs bringing the science, technology, and inspiration of NASA's missions to the general public,” according to their website. 

If you’re new to learning about astronomy, then you will definitely want to take a look at this website. You’ll find helpful links, including an archive of NASA Night Sky notes with details about the positions of stars and other astronomical objects in a given time period.

Look Up Tonight’s Moon Info

Also on The Night Sky Network, you can easily find information about what stage the moon is in. For example, as I write this, the moon is currently in its waxing gibbous phase and is about 94 percent full. 

This is especially helpful as you plan a night of stargazing. A brighter moon can shed too much light, making it harder to pinpoint constellations. You’ll also find sunrise and sunset times, down to the minute, so this is wonderful if you are planning a road trip to a rural area and want to time it just right. 

Consult Charts and Planners

Dive into even more detail about the positions of the stars with charts and planners from EarthSky. This site provides useful descriptions of what you might see when you gaze up at the sky during specific times of the year. Plus, they provide actual photos along with an illustrated diagram of a constellation. 

Studying up on the constellations you’re likely to see this time of the year will help you spot the real thing when the evening gets quiet and the lights are all shut off. Familiarizing yourself with a constellation before you head out to stargaze can help train your eyes to find it in the night sky. Studying really does pay off, even when it comes to hobbies! 

Check This Calendar

Speaking of helpful planning tools for stargazing, sometimes a full calendar view is even better. This calendar might appeal to those who are a bit more organized and love to see what’s happening, and when, at a glance. 

Not only will you be able to quickly see some of the more major constellations or astronomical events in the sky, but you can also check out astronomy club events. 

Connect with Other Stargazers

Speaking of astronomy clubs, network with others who are also interested in stargazing. As with most hobbies, other people who have been stargazing for years have lots of value to add to those newer to the group. 

Find a club near you and visit it to see if you like it. Chances are, the members will be excited to share knowledge with you and provide info above and beyond what you can readily find online. 

Stargazing Adventures

To be sure, you can absolutely step outside to stargaze without needing to know what star is what or which constellation you’re seeing. However, if you enjoy learning new things, there are a variety of resources available to help you brush up on your astronomy knowledge. 

Happy stargazing!

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