Stargazing is a truly unique experience. There’s something beautiful about looking up at the night sky to admire the thousands of twinkling lights above. It’s a truly peaceful activity and allows us to soak up the best of the world around us. And, it’s no surprise that stargazing has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. In fact, more and more holidaymakers are embracing “dark sky tourism” to get the best views of the night sky (National Geographic).
But if a stargazing holiday feels like too big a commitment for you, fear not as this activity can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. On clear nights you can get fantastic views in the UK, as long as you know where and when. To help you succeed in at-home stargazing, roof window manufacturers RW4Y are here to explain the best times and places to set up and share their top tips for getting the most out of your experience.
When to stargaze
The first thing to do when planning a stargazing experience is to choose the right time. While you can do it on any clear night, you’ll get the best view the days before, during, and after the new moon. This is because the light from the bright moonlight can wash out the sky and make it more difficult to spot the fainter stars.
While it is a little easier to stargaze in the autumn, winter, and spring due to the longer nights, you can stargaze in the summer months — you just need to make sure to wait until the sky is fully dark. This will mean you’ll be getting a very late night, so it’s a good idea to have a short nap in the evening to ensure you don’t end up nodding off in the darkness.
Where to stargaze
While many choose to go further afield for stargazing, you can easily enjoy fantastic views from your own front garden (or even indoors) as long as you set up in the right place. Try to find the darkest area possible before you start stargazing to avoid light pollution from affecting your view. Choose an area away from any streetlights and turn off all the lights in your home, both inside and outside. If outdoors, you should also try to choose an open area that isn’t crowded with trees, as you may find these can obstruct your view.
While stargazing outdoors can be a fun adventure, it is weather dependent. The good news is that you can easily enjoy it no matter the weather from the comfort of your own home. Set yourself up next to a window which isn’t overlooking artificial street light. The higher you can get up the better, so if you have a loft conversion this is a great place to start. Then, simply sit back and enjoy the view.
To know which direction is best to be looking at, you can download an app which tells you the stars you can see in the sky from where you are. Remember that the night sky changes throughout the year. To make the most of stargazing, do it at multiple points throughout the year so you can enjoy the sky in all its glory.
Preparing for stargazing
Once you’ve decided on the when and where, all that’s left to do is set yourself up for a fun and comfortable night of stargazing. When it comes to looking at and identifying the stars, a star spotter guide is always handy. This will help you spot constellations and show you what you should be looking for.
Use a red torch to read your guide, as regular artificial light can affect your vision and make it difficult for your eyes to adjust back to the darkness. A compass is also handy to figure out which direction you’re facing. And, of course, make sure to invest in a good set of binoculars or even a telescope to get a closer view of the night sky.
If you’re doing some stargazing outdoors, you’ll need to make sure you’re warm and comfortable to really enjoy the experience. Wrap up with a cosy jumper and blanket, and have a mug of your favourite hot drink. And if you’re soaking up the views indoors, you can simply do some stargazing in your pyjamas!
Tips for elevating your at-home stargazing experience
While making sure you prepare for your activity by choosing the right place and time, there are still ways to elevate the experience even further. To get the best experience possible for you and the family, make sure to use the following tips:
· Take time to adjust your eyes: It can take around 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. So don’t rush the experience and take the time to get used to the dark before starting stargazing.
· Bring a microfiber cloth: Binoculars can gather dust and flecks of dirt fairly quickly, so come prepared with a microfiber cloth to keep them clean and ensure you get the best experience.
· Learn to differentiate between planets and stars: Planets are often mistaken for bright stars in the sky, so it’s a good idea to learn how to differentiate the two. A good way to figure this out is to see if the object you’re looking at is twinkling. Only stars twinkle in the sky, so if it is twinkling then it cannot be a planet.
· Make the most of apps: There are plenty of stargazing apps around which can really help you elevate your experience. They can tell you what you’re seeing in the sky and help you identify constellations, so it’s well worth downloading one before you start.