Whether you use a telescope, binoculars or the naked eye, cold, windless nights offer the best observing conditions. But how do you know what you’re seeing? If you want to get a little more intimate with the heavens, here are 13 tips from astronomers to take your stargazing to the next level.
The app also shows light pollution conditions on a map. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Numerical Forecast Model and other sources provide stargazing forecasts around the world. Low humidity and no clouds at night are obviously good signs.
What Are The Best Conditions For Stargazing?
Once you’ve identified the best dates, take a look at where you can go stargazing for tips on locations and what to bring. Scattered cumulus clouds are usually fine, as they dissipate with daytime heat loss.
We spoke to Helen Chivers from the UK Met Office to find out more about the forecasts and how they can be used to help astronomers and stargazers plan when to get the best views of the night sky. The best time to stargaze is the days before, during and shortly after each new Moon, when there is no Moon in the sky.
The best advice I have been given is to look for clear days when the planes overhead have short contrails, which means that the upper atmosphere is very still and therefore viewing conditions will be good. The Met Office website has a wide range of tools including current and forecast conditions for general weather, cloud cover, rainfall, pressure, temperature, wind and UV index, based on your postcode. There are daily and hourly forecasts.
The best place to stargaze is one that’s high above the city – it can be a mountain or a building – as it will open up your field of view and allow you to get as far away as possible from those annoying, glare-creating street lights. You can find the best telescopes to use for stargazing, which can make it a little easier to spot stars in poor weather conditions.
The barometric pressure graphs are useful weather indicators, as high pressure indicates clearer conditions and low pressure warns of unstable conditions, clouds and stronger winds. Scope Nights is beautiful, and its simple charts make stargazing conditions clear at a glance.
The best time to stargaze
There is a numerical scale, called the Bortle scale, that helps stargazers know how bright the sky is over a given location. At that time, the sky will move directly into the densest region of the particle field, producing between 10 and 20 fast meteors per hour. If you can brave the cold, the sky is at its best on clear winter nights when there is no moisture in the air. By the time the sky begins to brighten before dawn, the pair will be higher and the moon’s orbital motion will have brought it slightly closer to the cluster.
This is especially true after a long day of exploration, when you can take advantage of an evening under the dark night sky. Technically, you can go stargazing on any night, but if you follow the guidelines below, your experience will be stellar. Generally, the best time to stargaze is when the moon is in its crescent or gibbous phase or when it is not present in the sky. Death Valley National Park has been designated as the nation’s largest national dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association.
The Moon is sometimes overlooked, but it’s a big object for city dwellers who can’t see the stars and more distant planets due to light pollution. On these nights, the Moon is either absent from the sky all night, sets a couple of hours after sunset, or doesn’t rise until the pre-dawn hours.
During the winter and spring months, Death Valley National Park rangers host stargazing events with various astronomical organizations, but the beautiful dark skies are a year-round attraction for astronomy enthusiasts. Let’s say you want to observe the Milky Way, and the stargazing app on your mobile device tells you that you’ll be out in the southeast in the early afternoon.
Death Valley Oasis
Death Valley Oasis, along with the National Park Service, has taken steps to greatly minimize light pollution in the area. You don’t really need anything to go stargazing, but there are things you can bring that will help you enjoy your time more. We determine the best times to stargaze based on the phase of the moon and the “nautical twilight that ends and begins each night”.
Located 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 295 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Furnace Creek is far enough away from the major cities of the Southwest to offer an unobstructed view of the night sky, but close enough for city dwellers to get away for the weekend.
The best time for stargazing, in terms of the moon’s brightness, is the two weeks before and after the new moon phase. You’ll also want to check the weather in the area you’re considering, because even the best spots are too cloudy at times.
The best lights for stargazing are red lamps and red LEDs, because red light affects night vision the least. Fall, winter, and spring are the best times for stargazing, especially from when the clocks go back in October (nights get an hour longer) to when they go forward in March (nights get an hour shorter).
In the first quarter, the moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight, so it is also visible in the evening daytime sky.