Stargazing is one of the most surreal activities that one can think of while trekking. While it may sound very easy and simple it is not really what it looks like. There are a lot of things that one needs to know about before stargazing. We might look at the stars and the moons every day in the sky but stargazing takes a little more effort. The entire process is more than just grabbing your telescope and moving in your backyard. Things such as guidebooks, star charts, and other equipment can help you glide your way through stargazing. Here are certain tips that will let you stargaze better the next time you go on a trek.
1. Get up high: Living in a city full of light pollution it might be difficult for you to stargaze from your backyard or from the terrace. In such cases, it is suggested to go as high as possible so buildings and artificial lights do not obstruct your view. Areas typically away from the city are considered. Places with good altitude are also advisable. The sky must be clear and dark, hazy clouds or pollution present the atmosphere will make it difficult to stargaze.
2. A red flashlight: While in the forest, if you want to avoid being completely alone in the darkness then carry a flashlight with a red filter instead of a blue one. Red light helps in maintaining dark adaptation for nighttime viewing. This condition is due to the size of the iris. In bright light, our iris closes more so that less light can enter into our eye and vice-a-versa. Although red light is more preferable you can also carry a cyan-green light as an alternative.
3. A star chart: Star charts are used to identify and locate constellations and astronomical objects such as stars, planets, nebulae, and galaxies. It is the best way to learn skies. Before the smart apps and technology came people used these star maps to navigate the stars. At first, it might be difficult for you to understand the star charts but once you get the hang of it, it becomes the most useful tool in stargazing.
4. Some handy applications: Mobile applications can be a great way to understand stargazing in a better way. They let you see the position of the planets, set your location and move the horizon. Some apps also come with a red light mode that keeps away your phone’s white light from interfering with your eye’s ability to adjust with the dark. Star chart, NASA app, Night sky lite are some examples of applications that can help you stargaze better next time. These apps are available both on Android and ISO.
5. Start with binoculars first: Often beginner stargazers commit the mistake of buying all the high tech equipment. Later they get frustrated because these equipments are difficult to use and they do not see things that are similar to them before. Which is why starting with a binocular is better than buying telescopes. Use these binoculars to understand the moon and other planets before you move on to further detailed objects.
6. Photographing stars: While looking at star trails can be a beautiful experience it is also likely that you would want to capture those beautiful moments and take them back with you. The minimum requirement of equipments includes a well built tripod which is one of the most important pieces of equipment. And a camera with manual mode functionality. Cheap tripods may not stay still or move slightly during the long exposure process required during the night photography. The next comes a 35 mm camera lens which is required to reduce the amount of noise in your pictures if it is a high ISO picture to provide high quality. Other equipment includes a wide angle lens to pick up as much light as possible in short time and a timer/intervalometer which is used to click long exposure images which are longer than 30 seconds. Considering the cost involved in buying such heavy equipment? Thanks to technology these days you can click night sky even with your mobile phone. The leading phones with good cameras are iPhone and OnePlus.
Pro-tip: Get Beyond Limits’ Phunsukh Wangdu Isolated Campsite is the best place to experience stargazing.
Next time you visit a trek never forget to have an unreal experience of stargazing. As beautiful as it may sound it is one of the most amazing experiences to have while trekking. Imagine yourself under the vast sky of stars shining like fireflies. Away from the cities artificial lights and skyscrapers having to experience stargazing for once is a must.