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Science
How to See Stars
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observation tips
Spacer   Following these guidelines will help everyone have an enjoyable observing experience:
  • With a few exceptions—like meteor showers—most things in backyard astronomy take a while. Be patient!

  • Try to observe the same object at different times. It may have a different appearance depending on how high or low it is in the sky.

  • Watch the news or read the newspaper for the latest weather forecasts and observe only when conditions are clear. It should not be too cloudy, windy, or humid. You should also avoid nights when the moon is very bright.

  • Choose a location that is safe but as far as possible from streetlights and house lights. Observe with friends and relatives.

  • If possible, sit back on a lawn chair or lie on a blanket so you can look up at the sky. Don’t forget to bring along your favorite bug repellent!

  • Allow your eyes several minutes to start adjusting to the darkness and at least 30-45 minutes to really adjust. Your eyes will naturally become more sensitive to light as time passes.

  • If you are using equipment, like a telescope or binoculars, allow plenty of time for the instruments to slowly adjust to the air temperature. If condensation forms on a lens, do not wipe it off! This could scratch the lens. Let the condensation evaporate on its own.

  • Take along a flashlight to read star charts in the dark. Cover the lens of the flashlight with a piece of red cellophane (red light interferes the least with night vision), and turn off the flashlight when you’re not using it.

  • Decide what you want to observe and fill out as much of the observation log as you can before you go outside. In addition to the observing calendar provided here, consult a newspaper or astronomy software to determine the rising and setting times of the sun, moon, and planets.

  • Don’t get discouraged. There are many stars out there! You’re not going to find all the constellations on your first night of stargazing. Instead, make it a goal to learn about a new constellation each time you view the summer skies.

Go to the next page - Navigating the Night Sky

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