I don’t know if there is anything more humbling than walking outside on a clear night and spending a good few minutes looking up at the sky. Have you ever tried to count the stars? I have. I think I got to twenty two before I gave up. Okay, I might not be the one you want to be out there counting the stars, but that’s why we let the experts do that!
For those of us who aren’t experts, here are a few tips on how to start building your own astronomer skills!
– Go out stargazing on a clear night as close to a new moon as possible. Light from the moon washes out a lot of the stars that you could see otherwise.
– If possible, choose a place far away from civilization to reduce the light pollution. In an increasing number of cities, it is impossible to see any stars because of the light pollution. To find out more about an interesting effort to decrease light pollution, check out www.darksky.org
– Don’t have a telescope? Take binoculars! They help you get a closer look at the stars and see more than you could with the naked eye.
– Don’t forget a star chart! Print a free evening sky map off http://www.skymaps.com
– Allow your eyes at least ten minutes to adjust to ‘night vision’ once you get outside. If possible, use a red light to look at your star chart so that your eyes can stay adjusted.
Stars and constellations trending in the northern hemisphere right now:
– Orion’s Belt – look for these three distinct stars right in a line, and you can make out Orion shooting his bow and arrow
– Big Dipper – this famous ladle is pretty easy to spot overhead, pointing to the North Star, Polaris
– Jupiter – Just above Orion’s head lies the bright and beautiful planet of Jupiter, which at its closest to Earth is still 390 million miles away!
– Sirius – Technically the brightest star in the sky, this one shines just to the left of Orion, and is part of Canis Major, the Great Dog. (for all you Harry Potter fans out there, you might be surprised how many character names come from stars and constellations!)
– Make-your-own – Who says scientists are the only ones allowed to ‘connect the dots’? Go for it!