The night sky is one of the most beautiful shows of nature. Beautiful far distant stars, our neighboring planets & and lucid Andromeda galaxy are some of the top attractions today for stargazers.
Lucky for us, this heavenly sky is everyone.
It offers you a free ticket to the most starling shows of nature.
The powerful telescope and stargazing binoculars are the top equipment in this field. But these, are just optional add-ons.
Humans have already learned a lot about the sky when there were no such pieces of equipment.
That’s why today, in this naked eye skywatching guide, I’m going to show how you can unravel the wonders of the sky, beauties of nebulas, and hopefully some planet & galaxies as well.
You don’t need expensive tools for this. Just you, dark sky, and a few tricks I am going to tell you below.
In this guide, you are going to learn:
The complete instructions on how to experience the best sky with unaided eyes.
Which place to choose for this? what are the things you should be carrying? How to read and navigate through the sky? Where to spot objects like planets and some special stars and more?
Thrilled? Let’s get started!
But first, What is Naked Eye Skywatching?
For your information; Its one of the most ancient scientific practice humans have ever been performing. One of the highlights is, it requires the least(zero) instrumentation.
Naked eye skywatching involves observing the nightly sky with your bare eyes.
Unlike regular skywatching which today is popularly exercised with telescopes or binoculars. The naked eye skywatching is the purest form of observations of the sky. And trust me, it’s still very effective and enjoyable- you will experience it yourself anyway.
Find Dark Sky Near You!
How did we learned a lot about our universe thousands of years ago, already with no telescopes? Let me tell you…there was a complete absence of light pollution! There wasn’t such a thing in pre-industrial civilization.
That’s the hidden secret my friend – Dark Skies!
Artificial light is the biggest enemy for astronomers today.
So go baby, and get into an as open & darker place as possible. With a clear sky, free from clouds and dust. You should also be able to see from horizon to horizon.
Probably away from the city and have it safe for you. Hilltops and beaches are great for this.
If traveling some distance is not possible. Turn off as many lights, computers, and all those lighting things as you can.
You’ll also want to lie on your back (unless you want to stiff your neck of looking up). So make it comfy!
Grab these things
Okay, not talking about telescope here!
There are few other things you should consider carrying with yourself (hope won’t be expensive).
First, a repellent to keep mosquitoes (and thus malaria) at the bay.
Red flashlight for navigating and doing things. Wrapping red color over white flash may work but can fail in filtering other colors and end-up ruining your night vision.
Caution! No light other than red color should be used!
And a blanket maybe, for ease in laying down. Some hot/cold drinks if you want to.
Give Your Eyes a Chance
When you first get into a dark place, high on hope to see it all. You may not experience a lot of difference and you’re likely to get discouraged.
But trust me, it’s completely normal. Your eyes just need to adapt to darkness and to activate the night vision.
It may take up to 20 minutes at max to be at its best.
After that, you will start to experience the power of your naked eye. And beauties of the sky. End up finding out how busy the nightly universe is.
But remember; once you get this process started, don’t look at shiny things or use your phone. I would go on & suggest to shut it for while to prevent calls from ruining the business of your eyes.
And again, use only a red flashlight. Because red is the only color that does not erect our pupil.
Observe the Motion
Now after following all those steps above, you are sure to see better.
So its time to upgrade. Lets read the sky like a pro!
Start gradually! Look for moving things in the sky. Meteor (also called shooting stars) appears like a bright streak of light.
I am assuming that you choose the night of eclipse i.e. when the moon is completely absent.
International Space Station! Can you see it?… It will look like a star, moving across the sky slowly and steadily.
Airplanes will flash green and red lights.
You have thousands of stars at your sight. Now use your imagination!
Can you make pictures out of them? Our ancestors have been doing it for thousands of years. There are 88 named constellations already. 😮
Stars on a casual view appear to be white. But if you observe them properly, even with the naked eye, you will be amazed to find out that there are few stars of different colors.
It is a little tricky, but some astronomers are successful in distinguishing them based on their color; like red, orange, and yellow.
Can we see planets with the naked eye?
Yes! You can definitely see planets with the naked eye. But not all of them (sorry!).
There are five of them; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. But you probably aren’t gonna get to see many details (unless you’re superhuman or you need a telescope for that!).
They look brighter, little less like a star. If lucky, you’ll be able to identify them by their color.
But you will also want to know when and where to look for it.
Gears you can use
As I said earlier, there are no compulsory gears (except your eyes). Trust me your eyes are just enough!
But still, I’m going to mention two, if you can afford, will take your experience to the next level.
Sky charts can make your life easier.
Astronomy is all about patience. To be an expert stargazer, it cost years of practice, dedication, and hard work.
No doubt, you are going to have a lot of fun on this journey (if it’s your passion!).
So just keep practicing naked eye skywatching (binoculars/optional) maybe for a few months. Then consider a good beginner level telescope so you can see things that not possible with naked eyes.
Upgrade slowly, steadily, and buildup your personal collection of telescopes and binoculars.
So that’s my personal experience with naked-eye skywatching.
Yeah, I had a lot of fun doing it myself and wish for you the same. And I will update you with more tips on this as I come across.
Now I have a question for you. Are you going to give naked eye skywatching a shot? Which of these steps did you find most useful? Or maybe you have your own tricks to share with our readers? Just drop your comment below.