With borders shut, airplanes grounded and lockdowns in full force, discovery through travel will have to take a backseat, for the moment. However, that doesn’t mean discovery through other parallels isn’t possible. In fact, this is the time to discover things that we never used to, either because we didn’t have the time, or because they weren’t discoverable. Let us appreciate the world and its many wonders in a new light. Explore beyond the ordinary… into the extraordinary. And with pollution levels dropping to all-time lows, and skies becoming clearer, now you can easily gaze into a star-studded night sky, filled with wonder and galaxies far, far away. Which is why we thought of sharing with you a comprehensive beginner’s guide on the art of star gazing.
Did You Know?
If you spend some time gazing at the night sky from your terrace or balcony, then you could see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter with the naked eye. Here’s how:
The closest planet to Sun will be clearly visible to us at night and has a bright yellow color. Because it is so close to the Sun, it is often lost in the glare. However, it will be visible during these times over the next few days.
On 12 May 2020, the Sun sets on 18:05 and Mercury will be visible on 18:48 at 8°, West
On 15 May 2020, the Sun sets on18:07, and Mercury will be visible on 19:05 at 11°, West
On 18 May 2020, the Sun sets on18:08, and Mercury will be visible on 19:21, at 14°, West
This planet is known for its large and silver appearance and is often mistaken as a UFO by some people. Venus is the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon.
The planet’s brightness helps it pop out 1 hour to 75 minutes after every sunset and you can catch both Venus and Mercury close to each other on the evenings of May 21st and 22nd. This is the time when these planets will be closest to each other’s orbits. Venus will appear crescent like in the West because it is passing between the Earth and the Sun.
Mars or the Red Planet as it is also known will be visible to the naked eye during the month of May. From May 11th to 14th, you can catch its glimpse in the predawn/dawn period in the Southeast to South sky.
Saturn and Jupiter:
Two of largest planets in the Solar System, Saturn and Jupiter will appear bright in the predawn/dawn sky along with Mars from May 11th to 14th. They can be spotted with the naked eye a few degrees above Mars, aligned with each other in the Southeast to South sky. Jupiter appears white while Saturn appears yellowish white in the sky.
Use the waning moon as your guide to spot these giants.
What else can you spot in the night sky?
Constellations are nothing but shapes made in the sky using the stars as points. It’s a lot of fun to try spotting these constellations that form. All our zodiac signs come from these constellations and finding them is an excellent exercise to make astronomy more exciting. You can learn how to spot them with ease on any of the above apps.
The moon is the closest astronomical body to the earth and following the satellite through its various phases can be quite an enlightening experience. The celestial body has always found its way in popular culture, literature, science, religion and even mythos. Getting to know it better can be an exciting way to get started with astronomy.
We have told you what you can spot in the sky. You now have enough to get started on your stargazing expedition. However, if you are a little bit of a knowledge seeker and want to dive a little deeper into this newfound interest, here are some resources that you might find useful.
A short history lesson on the beginnings of astronomy
Find out the roadmap of events and philosophies developed by the ancient Greeks and how it raises a few unsolved questions in modern day astronomy.
Ebooks on Astronomy
Here are some of the Ebook resources on Astronomy available on Amazon.
1. The Astronomy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK
2. Astronomy for Beginners by Miles Clark
3. Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds
Your experience can be further enhanced by:
If you are going to pick up stargazing as a hobby, here’s a list of what you need for an enhanced experience.
- Get an app:
Just to help you get an idea of what to look for and how, you can get an app like Sky Maps
or Star Chart which works as a pocket planetarium. It can help you identify objects in the night sky
2. Binoculars / Camera with a zoom lens (Optional):
While naked eye star gazing is definitely wondrous, getting your hands on a pair of binoculars or zooming into stellar objects with your DSLR camera will promise you plenty of detail to see.
However, never point binoculars directly at the sun as it can damage your eye.
Tip: Give yourself 15 minutes to adjust your eyes to the darkness for a better stargazing experience.
That’s all! These 2 things will be enough for you enrich your experience a bit further.
What are you waiting for? Look up and indulge in the wonders of our universe.