Crisp, clear Autumn nights are some of the best nights for stargazing here in western Colorado. As you head out to enjoy the view, remember these seven tips to help you make the most of your stargazing experience.
- Find a dark site with an open view, away from city lights, roads, building lights, or other light sources.
- Check the Moon phase. Moon light is a beautiful and natural source of light at night, though it will dilute the view of the stars. The nights surrounding the New Moon are usually the best nights for stargazing.
- For enjoyable stargazing, the weather needs to be calm and clear, so check the forecast before going out.
- Dress warmly. Temperatures can drop quickly in the evening, and I’ve seen many would-be stargazers have to go inside because they didn’t have enough warm clothes on. Dress warmer than you think to enjoy the night sky; you can always take layers off.
- Probably the most important tip for night sky enjoyment is to use red lights as flashlights. Red lights won’t ruin your night vision like white and blue light, and they will allow you to see while keeping your eyes adapted to the dark.
- When stargazing, it helps to know what you are looking at. Free monthly star charts are available online, or buy a planisphere and have a year-round map of the stars. Members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society receive bi-weekly observing highlights as a membership benefit, so become a member today!
- Learn some star lore. Everyone loves a good story. The night sky comes alive when the stars are woven into heroic tales of love and war. There are so many wonderful stories from cultures all over the world to help us learn about the stars.
Half the beauty is after dark here in western Colorado. We are so fortunate to have access to such a breathtaking view of the night sky. So, get outside and enjoy the view!
Whether camping or at home, the best thing you can do to protect the night sky is to turn off or properly shield your lights. Another great way to help protect the night is to become a member of the International Dark-Sky Association and gain access to a worldwide network of dark-sky advocates.
Western Slope Skies is produced by the Black Canyon Astronomical Society. This episode was written and recorded by Aaron Watson of the International Dark-Sky Association Colorado chapter. Learn more about dark skies and become a member of the International Dark-Sky Association at www.darksky.org