Stargazing Tips from an Adler Astronomer
Though it’s easy to see a smattering of stars with the naked eye, you’ll need extra equipment to view objects in deep space. We spoke with Dr. Geza Gyuk—Adler Planetarium’s vice president for astronomy, research, and collections—for his tips on how to get started, as well as his favorite places in the country for putting these stargazing tips into practice.
* Don’t get a telescope—not at first. Get a nice, sturdy pair of binoculars instead.
* Avoid binoculars with huge magnification, because then you’re just holding up two telescopes to your eyes. Any little tremor in your hands will make you lose your place.
* Beginners should try a pair of binoculars with 10 times magnification and a 50-millimeter diameter. These gather in a lot of light but still allow you to see a broad swath of the sky.
* Image stabilizers can help you achieve a stable view if you don’t think you can avoid the occasional hand tremor.
* Familiarize yourself with constellations and bring along a planisphere to help you locate objects in space.
* Read the book 365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo, which includes a day-by-day viewing schedule for galaxies and nebulae.
* If you’re in a city, try driving at least an hour away until you find a dark patch of sky. Light pollution is “just like any other pollution,” but instead of throwing trash on the ground, we're releasing unwanted light into the air and creating an ever-present glow that blocks our view of the stars. See this map to get a sense of your local area’s light pollution.
Photo: Mark Hammergren