Stargazing for Beginners

The nighttime sky is full of wondrous, fascinating objects and you don’t need a telescope to see them. With your eyes and some curiosity, you can find constellations, stars, planets, nebulae, the Milky Way, comets, meteors, and more. There are more than a dozen easily identifiable celestial objects right in your own backyard.

The summer sky provides a celestial show visible to us with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars. During June, July, and August, we are able to see Mizar & Alcor, Cephei, The Scorpion’s Claw (Libra), and The Lagoon & Third Nebulae, as well as The Coathanger, Albireo, The Double Double, and the M13. The Autumn sky provides the Andromeda Galaxy, Algol the Demon Star, Double Cluster, and M15 (Globular Cluster). In Winter, you can see The Great Orion Nebulae, The Pleiades, The Andromeda Galaxy, Cephie, Algol the Demon Star, The Double Cluster, Mizar & Alcor, and The Beehive. Spring brings us Mizar and Alcor, The Beehive, The Lost Star (M48), Sombrero Galaxy, Arcturus, M3, Regulus & Gamma Leonis, & The Black Eye Galaxy.

The zodiac is the region close to the circle where the orbital plane of the solar system intersects the celestial plane. This includes the path of the sun across the sky and the paths of the naked eye planets which move in a zone just above and below this. A solstice refers to the position of the Sun in relation to the Earth’s equator. A solstice takes place when the Sun reaches its southernmost or northernmost position at the Tropic of Capricorn or the Tropic of Cancer. An equinox occurs when the Sun reaches one of two intersections between the ecliptic and celestial equator.

To begin your quest as a stargazer, cost is relatively low. You might want to start out with a reference guide. A handy one to have is the Audobon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky. Review it before you begin to better prepare yourself for your adventures. It is full of basic astronomy facts and can help you get on your way to being a star wizard. For the serious stargazer, look into investing in a pair of 10×50 binoculars. These are small and light but very powerful.

The planets play hide-and-seek and you need to have patience when searching for them. Mercury, Venus, and Mars can be identified with a naked eye and require no telescope. Consult your reference guide or take a guided tour led by an astronomy guru.

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