Stargazing Guide: 12 tips for amateur astronomers

NASA is developing a path for an exciting journey to Mars. This month brings an amazing night-sky view of the Red Planet for stargazers.

Mars is currently visible, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight. Earth’s closest neighbor is also at its brightest and will remain that way well into November. Learn more about spotting Mars here, and check out our tips below to help with your stargazing all year round.

Stargazing guide

  1. Set up your telescope one hour before viewing. This will help the optics adapt to the conditions. This is especially important in humid climates like Space City.
  2. Set up your telescope in a direction where the lens does not point toward any light from the ground (streetlight, house, passing cars, etc.).
  3. Find a flat surface for the tripod and adjust the tripods legs so that the telescope base is level.
  4. Turn off any lights in your vicinity, including indoor and outdoor house lights.
  5. Use a red-light flashlight and turn on red light setting on your phone or turn down the brightness.
  6. Twenty minutes before viewing, let your eyes adjust by not looking at bright screens like your TV or computer.
  7. Wipe off any eye piece or lens with a microfiber cloth.
  8. Use a stargazing app like Sky View or Stargazer to help find and identify objects and plan your viewing for the night. Make a schedule for the objects you want to view, and start with objects highest in the sky.
  9. Start observing by finding the brightest object in the sky, usually a bright star or planet.
  10. Focus on objects that appear high in the sky. Objects closer to the horizon won’t appear as clear due to atmospheric turbulence.
  11. When looking through the eye piece, avoid touching the telescope. This will cause the scope to move and possibly lose sight of the object. When not viewing directly, stay a few feet away from the telescope to avoid any accidents.
  12. View an object through eye piece for about 20 seconds then take a break for your eyes to adjust.

Stargaze with us

Join our Virtual Campouts on Oct. 17, Nov. 7 and Dec. 12 to stargaze in real time with our educators. Browse some of the amazing images of our Moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn that Space Center Houston educators have captured below.

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