My stargazing tips
Some general advice on getting into stargazing
If you’re new to this newsletter, welcome! I’m Abby. I’m a science journalist, stargazing columnist and author of The Art of Urban Astronomy. I live in England, where we have just entered a THIRD lockdown. I started this newsletter to help people through the dark nights, with ideas of what to look for in the skies each week. If you live in the southern hemisphere don’t worry, I always try to make sure it applies to stargazers around the world.
I’ve had quite a few new subscribers since the last newsletter went out, so I’d like to start by saying thank you and welcome! I really hope you’ll enjoy this, and I’m always open to any suggestions.
So to welcome the new subscribers, instead of going through a specific activity this week, I thought I’d answer some of the most common questions people ask me about stargazing. You can always find all our previous activities on the newsletter page.
Where should I start?
Think about the types of things that interest you, and start from there. Do you want to be able to point at something in the sky and tell your friends it’s a planet? Or do you want to know how to star hop between the constellations? You might much prefer to see a meteor shower or the northern lights over identifying different stars. Everyone gets excited over different things!
Once you’ve worked out what you want to see, you can plan. Download a stargazing app. Have a look at something like Stellarium, which is free web software that shows you what the sky will look like from where you live, at any time. You can also look at astronomy calendars to plan things like watching meteor showers.
Do I need a telescope?
No. If you’re new to stargazing, don’t buy a telescope. You could end up spending loads of money on it and never taking it out the box. You can see so many different things without a telescope - planets, meteors, the moon, and even the Andromeda Galaxy. Once you’ve seen a few things and enjoyed that, I’d suggest buying a pair of binoculars first. They’re much more portable, cheaper and you can see loads with them - nebulae, the craters on the moon etc. Only once you’ve exhausted all of these things should you consider buying a telescope.
What equipment do I need?
In order of importance, I would say the most important things are:
Hot water bottle
Blanket or camping chair
A stargazing app
A weather app - for checking that all important cloud cover
A friend to keep you company (could be a dog!)
What apps do you recommend?
I use an iPhone, and I recommend Dark Sky for checking the weather. I use the Stellarium app, which I paid about £5 for I think. I also use SkyView Lite which was free - it might as you to upgrade when you open it, but you can just ignore that and use the free version. To use these apps, you hold them in front of your face with the screen directly in front of you. What it shows you should be what you can see when you take the phone away.
Do you have any questions about stargazing? Or any tips you’d like to share? Please let me know!
If you have a friend who might enjoy this newsletter, please pass it on. Read more about my work here, and please reply to this email with any feedback or questions! You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
Did someone forward this to you? Subscribe here: