Some people who live in the city might find it difficult to stargaze from their neighborhoods. That even though there are lots of telescopes for sale today, people are still not into astronomy because they are unable to see the stars due to light pollution. But did you know that even though you live in the city, you will still be able to enjoy stargazing?
There are lots of amateur astronomers who live in and around the cities who can enjoy wonderful views through their telescopes any clear night they wish. There are just some few tricks you need to learn for you to get the best out of what your equipment has to offer.
There are two major light pollution problems you will have to face when you go stargazing in the city. One is sky glow and the other one is local or line-of-sight glare. Sky glow is the sickish orange glow that we often see rising above the horizons. It has a combined effect of thousands of lights on buildings, parking lots, and along roadways that cast some of their light skyward. And the result of this is it extinguishes faint stars and washes out the sky.
Local or line-of-sight glare on the other hand, happens anywhere, either in the largest cities or in the smallest rural towns. It is cause by poorly designed or placed lights either from a badly located street light or from a neighbor’s house. It is a type of light pollution that do not wash out the sky like how sky glow does, however, it can blind a stargazer to faint starlight by sneaking into the corner of the eye.
Tips and Tricks for Urban and City Stargazers
If you’re experiencing these light pollution problems whenever you attempt to go stargazing, no worries, because there are ways on how you can deal with them. Here are some tips and tricks you can try to lessen their impact and enjoy observing the sky in the city.
1. Use the Best Equipment
Let’s start with the best telescopes to use when viewing from a city. Some believes that smaller telescopes are better when observing from a light polluted area, however, that is not true. Because a larger telescope will be able to gather more starlight regardless of where it is placed.
Another way to improve the view is to optimize the telescope you own, not matter what its size or type may be. You can add a tube extension in front of your telescope because it can slow the onset of dew on a refractor’s lens and it can also block stray side light. Also, choosing the right eyepiece is also a must because it can make all the difference between seeing an object and not. And as you choose your eyepiece, make sure that they come with eyecups as well. These can help in guarding against localized light which enters the corner of the eyes.
But if you cannot make your telescope work well, another useful accessory you can use is binoculars. They are able to show faint stars clearly and they can help you find reference stars that are invisible to the naked eye. Plus, you can easily bring them with you when you decide to tour the city as well.
2. Choose the Best Observing Site
After choosing what equipment to use, another important thing when stargazing in the city is to choose a good observing site. A good one should be readily accessible, as dark as possible, and more importantly, safe above all other considerations.
If you happen to live in a high-rise apartment, you can ask about using the rooftop at night if there’s any easy access to it. It great to view the sky from a roof because you’re above a lot of earthly obstructions like buildings, trees, and street lights. But you also need to be careful because your neighbors might think you’re keeping them under surveillance.
Aside from rooftops, another great place to stargaze are on grassy areas in city parks and in beaches as well. But before heading out at night, make sure to check the location by day to ensure safety.
3. Viewing Techniques
Once you have your equipment and the best spot to stargaze in, the next thing you need to learn are different viewing techniques. Make sure to choose a spot in your viewing site that will block as many sources of local light pollution as possible. These can be buildings and trees.
If there are no conveniently placed barriers on your viewing site, you can also bring your own along with you. You can use black boards, towels, or fabrics over your head when looking through the eyepiece to cover the lights.
And of course, timing is very important especially when it comes to urban stargazing. Whether your target is a planet, the moon, or a deep-sky object, the best time to observe is always when they are highest in the sky. Light pollution also often drops off after midnight, therefore, early morning hours are the best time to go stargazing in the city.
4. Join Local Clubs
One of the best tricks to enjoy stargazing in the city is to join local clubs. These clubs often hold parties especially around New Moon weekend. For example, the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York City holds monthly nighttime viewing sessions in some city parks. And it is much safer to go stargazing with groups than go alone.
These are some of the best tips we can give for urban and city stargazers. The city might seem like the least likely place to see the stars and other deep sky objects, but with these tips and tricks, you can still see the brightest stars and planets. Try them out and find out what you can see from your local park or apartment rooftop.