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Complete newbie here. I have an opportunity to visit one of the few designated dark sky sites here in Pennsylvania, Cherry Springs State Park. I plan on camping out over night, but I have never gone stargazing before, don't use a telescope, and I don't know what the protocols are as far as binoculars? glasses? Etc. for viewing the night skies. The park allows no lights, save for flashlights covered with red tint. Is there anything else that you more experienced astronomers would suggst that I need to have with me? What should I bring? What should I expect for my first observation tour ever? Thank you.

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If you have yet to plan your adventure and the moon is not you main target, be sure to set your date nearest a "New Moon". During this phase the moon will not be visible at night, reducing the light pollution that much more. This will increase the amount of stars you should be able to see. Peak of any meteor shower event would be a bonus aswell.

Red light is also important as you suggested, but keep in mind a cellphone is just as bad as a flashlight. There are free apps available for many devices to reduce your brightness levels even further. Your eyes can take roughly 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness after exposure to light. This will significantly impact your stargazing experience.

Wether its your first or hundredth time, naked eye observation is always an enjoyable experience. Being that you shall be going to a region with rather dark skies, you should see a suprisingly bright milky way. There should be so many stars in the sky, one could get "lost" looking for often easily recognized constellations. You may even see meteors, satellites or even the ISS.

That being said, binoculars are not neccesary but are a great tool for the avid or begginer gazer. With a steady hand and a decent pair of binoculars it is possible to see the rings on saturn and moons of jupiter. Many galaxies and starclusters can also be enhanced with the aid of the binoculars. Be sure to lean on something though or it will be way to shaky to see clearly. If you have the space and a half decent pair, I would bring them. If not, no worries the pea soup of stars in the sky should keep you busy.

There are many free resources online that can help you find what your looking for if you have any celestial targets in mind. If you have a mobile device, an astronomy/planetarium app is a very useful tool for any stargazer.

For your first time, the most important thing I can suggest to bring is a comfortable reclining chair or blanket and an open mind. There are so many amazing things to learn about the universe and there is no better place to do it than under the stars.

Also be sure not to forget the bug repellent. Can't see much of the stars if your hiding in your tent. Best of luck and hope you get great weather.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your suggestions. I will follow up on your advice. It seems that there is nothing complex here and I appreciate that. I think that this is going to be the greatest show on earth, and it is free! $\endgroup$ – ychirea1 Jul 23 '15 at 11:30

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