Stargazing on National Meteor Watch Day!
Today, June 30th is National Meteor Watch Day! Meteors are essentially “shooting stars” of scorching hot space debris streaking through the sky. Meteors sometimes occur in showers, but daily, there are millions of meteors that occur in Earth’s atmosphere (though the majority of them are no bigger than a small pebble). National Meteor Watch Day is the perfect opportunity to gather some friends together for a star party and watch the sky.
National Geographic defines star parties as gatherings where professional and amateur astronomers set up their telescopes and invite people to come learn about the night sky. But anyone can have a star party at home as a family activity or host a stargazing party with family and friends to watch the sky together.
Traveling to more rural areas can help stargazers get away from artificial skylight from buildings in the city, streetlamps and generally offer a quieter atmosphere to observe what’s going on in the sky above.
Sky and Telescope magazine has several tips and activities for families looking to spend an evening under the stars from toddler telescopes to star wheel and sundial instructions. They also have a card game to help little ones learn 52 different constellations!
- Winter is a good time for stargazing because the haze caused by summer’s humidity in many parts of the country is gone.
- You don’t need an expensive telescope, just a star chart. In fact, a telescope can be frustrating if you don’t have a basic knowledge of the night sky. Try binoculars first, and use a tripod to hold them up so your arms don’t get tired.
Find a place where you feel safe.
- Look for a spot where lights aren’t shining in your eyes, like in the shadow of your house where your neighbor’s porch light is blocked.
- Take your time. You will see a lot more after 30 minutes in the dark than you will after just a few minutes because your eyes need time to adjust to the dark.
- Looking for a star party near you? Contact your local planetarium, science museum, or astronomy club.