A Tour through the Universe for Beginning Astronomers
There are few pursuits as amazing as astronomy and it is something that is often overlooked in the modern world we live in. Who can find the time to stay up late at night to do some casual stargazing? What with all the commitments of the modern world it can be a challenge to really slow down and do something like stargazing.
But you really don't need to stay up late at night and sacrifice a whole lot of sleep to get a real enjoyment out of the wonders of the night sky. You just need to know a few things and you will be ready to get maximum enjoyment out of this amazing pastime.
The Darkness of the sky and light pollution - Your first consideration
If you live in a big city, or in the middle of a smaller city light pollution from street lights, homes, and other things is a serious consideration. You need to have a really dark sky in order to really get a good look at anything in the sky. If your observing spot is your backyard you have to go back there and take a look at the sky. Is it really black and are there thousands of stars that just jump out at you? can you see the Milky Way, which is a band of white that crosses the sky? It kind of looks like cotton candy or cotton balls. If you can't see a really dark sky and thousands of bright stars you really need to find another observation spot away from the city. This means taking a trek out of town but it is worth it.
The Moon is your second consideration
The moon itself while a fascinating thing to look at and can be the subject of your evening of observation it can have a significant effect on the rest of your viewing. If the moon is full much of the night sky will be washed out to you. This is lunar light pollution. And, a full moon is not a really great thing to view with a telescope or binoculars. The sun is shining directly at it so there are no shadows to emphasize the craters, mountains and other things on its surface. Take a look at a lunar chart to see what phase the moon is in when you want to observe. Try to plan your stargazing around a crescent moon or no moon at all. Here is the state of the moon today for northern and southern hemispheres.
The Smaller the percentage of full the better your tour of the night sky will be. And the better your actual viewing of the moon will be too.