Stargazing: Where and How to View the Night Sky

Get Your Equipment

Don't worry; you don't need to add anything else to your camping checklist. In fact, you don't need any equipment to enjoy stargazing.

If you do have extra room in the camping box, however, there are a few things you could use that will help you see and identify more stars, constellations, planets and clusters. Some of the most basic items are:

Star chart: Old school star charts, physical charts you hold up to the sky, are nearly outdated. Download a sky chart mobile app, instead. With this you can specify location, time of year and time of day to get an accurate chart. Try SkyWeek's new interactive app for iOS or Star Chart on Android.

Amateur telescope: Don't buy a telescope--unless you're willing to pay for an expensive model. "Relatively inexpensive telescopes aren't terribly good quality," says Searcy. If you want a telescope he suggests purchasing a Dobsonian Telescope, which he believes is a "great deal for the money."

For a little less money you can purchase the Orion StarBlast, which uses a parabolic mirror, as opposed to the spherical mirror that most inexpensive telescopes use.

Binoculars: A pair of 10 x 50 binoculars is really all you need to see deep into the night sky, says Searcy: "You can see the four large moons around Jupiter," as well as star clusters.

Find a Local Star Club

The best way to get started in stargazing is to find your local astronomy club. These groups often host star parties, and bring a large telescope. Events like these help you learn more about the skies in your local area, and provide you with an opportunity to use equipment you may not want to purchase.

Top Places for Stargazing

While you can enjoy stargazing just about anywhere, especially when camping, these five places have unmatched night skies that will keep you looking up all night long.

  • Anza-Borrego: Camp here
  • Natural Bridges National Monument--The first place to be named an International Dark Sky Park
  • Joshua Tree: Camp here
  • Sunset Campground, Utah--Ask about their astronomy program: Camp here
  • Chaco Culture
  • Twin Lakes State Park, Virginia: Camp here

No matter where you go stargazing, Searcy suggests driving 45 minutes away from the city or urban area, which will take you "outside of the light dome, where you can see the sky better."

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