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10 tips and tricks for stargazing

Amateur astronomy is fun and easy. Astronomy remains a living science because it always brings something new. If you're an amateur astronomer, you can actively explore the night sky. With our 10 tips and tricks, you'll become a pro in no time.

1. Get a general overview of the starry sky

The Earth rotates once a day and orbits the Sun once a year. The first motion causes celestial objects to move from east to west, and the second causes different constellations to appear in the sky each season.

The sky has a north pole, an equator and a south pole. There are two celestial coordinates: The right ascension is like the terrestrial longitude, and the declination mimics the latitude.

The moon has different lunar phases. It first becomes visible as a thin crescent moon in the western evening sky. Each night thereafter, it appears to grow and move eastward until it becomes full, after which its illuminated portion shrinks to invisibility. When you see the thin crescent moon in the west again, about 30 days have passed. It is useful to know the phases of the moon, as the light may prevent you from seeing some objects.

First, familiarize yourself exclusively with bright seasonal constellations. Start with a few per season: Taurus & Orion in winter; Scorpio and Cygnus (Swan) in summer; and so on. Don't worry about the "weak ones." If you haven't heard of Lacerta and Serpens (Snake), there's probably a good reason for that.

Bright full moon

The moon offers beginners hundreds of easily visible targets

2. Learn more about the night sky and the stars

You're already off to a good start. But there's so much more out there to learn. The public library and bookstores offer many observing guides and scientific information. In this specialized literature, you'll gain an in-depth look at the world of stars and the universe. Over time, you will begin to understand the technical terms and your general understanding of astronomy will increase immensely. Furthermore, YouTube tutorials and online blogs, like this one, are also a great way to get informed.

3. The right equipment for stargazing

You probably wouldn't buy a car without getting behind the wheel first. In any case, don't buy a telescope without testing it thoroughly first. Some astronomy stores will even set up equipment especially for you. Take plenty of time, visit manufacturer websites, ask lots of questions, and you will have a lifetime of enjoyment from your telescope and stargazing.

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4. Choose your observing site carefully

If you're happy with the Sun, Moon, planets, and double stars, pretty much any location will do. But to see faint, diffuse objects like nebulae and galaxies, you'll need a very dark spot. Some things you should consider when choosing a perfect location include lighting conditions, how to get to and from the vantage point, and of course weather factors. A clear sky and clear air are elemental to stargazing.

5. Double your observation time with the sun

You can also observe a star during the day - namely our sun. But observing the sun is not exactly safe. Without specially approved solar filters or solar foils for visual solar observation, looking into the sun all the time will inevitably damage your eyes. For naked eye observation, you must use eclipse glasses specifically approved for this purpose. If you are properly protected, you may see a sunspot on the surface of the sun as a small black dot, even without a telescope.

Galaxy pictures
Stars and galaxy

6. Make yourself comfortable while stargazing

Sit down! Sounds very banal at first, but it really is a good tip. When I sit comfortably at the eyepiece, I can concentrate much more consciously on the actual observing of the sky and the stars. I recommend a special observing/astro chair for this.
Also the right clothing is elementary necessary for stargazing. Stargazing is an outdoor hobby. Therefore, your clothes should definitely be adapted to the weather conditions. With the wrong clothes, you will probably abandon the adventure after a short time.

7. The art of stargazing

Good news: With the right equipment, it's even possible to photograph astronomical objects. However, astroimaging, the art of star photography requires a lot of practice. Always remember that creating a high-quality image involves two steps. In the first step, you take a picture with the help of a suitable camera. In the second step, you need the appropriate image editing software to professionally enhance and post-process the photograph. 
There are many resources to help you learn the art of astrophotography. Read appropriate literature, blogs, and watch tutorials. Finally, show your results to your family and friends. They will be thrilled.

Man stargazing

8. Record your star observations

To remember your discoveries, it is best to start logging your observations. A simple log will include the date and time of your observations, what objects you saw, and a brief description of the celestial objects and stars.
More detailed logs may include information about the telescope you used, what eyepieces and magnifications you used, what sky conditions were like (clouds, light conditions, etc.), and the faintest star you could see with the naked eye (limiting magnitude).

9. Observe stars together

Visit a planetarium near you or attend an astronomy party. Sharing in forums and clubs, as well as observing together, is not only insanely fun, but also helps you improve your skills.
Without question, the best step you can take is to join a local astronomy club. Most astronomy clubs have members who are looking for ways to share information about the hobby we all love. Just join, volunteer to help with events, and soon you'll be the one answering beginner questions.

Stargaizing friends

10. Don't limit yourself to certain objects 

I've heard it a million times. "I'm a moon watcher" or "I only watch galaxies." "Really?" Are these amateur astronomers actually saying they would pass up observing a total lunar eclipse, a bright comet, or a meteor shower?
While your telescope may be best suited for a particular type of celestial object, you can of course use it to observe other objects as well. And you should do that in any case.

11. Additional tip for amateur astronomers

If you are still at the very beginning of stargazing and lack the appropriate equipment, the appropriate astronomy software certainly offers a good start. Customers who buy a star via get a download link to a great software planetarium. The software shows a realistic 3D sky as you can see it with naked eye, binoculars or telescope. You can even observe the real starry sky as it is visible at your location. We are currently offering our Galaxy Academy readers an exclusive 10% coupon, for orders over $50. Just enter the coupon code AKADEMIE10 at checkout and buy and give away a real star!