Stargazing is a wonderful experience and Western Australia is blessed with some of the darkest and clearest skies in the world, just calling you to travel out and be enchanted by the amazing views.
But as beginners, stargazing can be a little more complicated than first thought and simple mistakes can quickly shut down your enthusiasm. So, we give you the ‘heads-up’ on where we went wrong as newbies in this stargazing caper, to guarantee your first forays into the night sky are a breeze.
Didn't take a Red Torch
On my first stargazing adventures, whenever I needed to see something on the telescope, I was using white light and would ruin my night-time vision every time! While out under a dark sky, it takes about 15 minutes for our eyes to become used to the darkness and red light doesn’t affect this night-time vision. But always take a normal torch for packing up. You don’t want to leave anything behind.
Forgot to Check the Lunar Calendar
I once travelled a long distance out into country WA for those magnificent dark night skies, planning to see the band of the Milky Way but didn’t check the lunar calendar. It was no good trying to see the Milky Way when the full moon had risen! Check the Moon phases here
Line Up the Finder Scope
Another easy mistake for beginners to make is not lining up the finder scope with the main telescope tube while you still have daylight! It is super hard trying to do this in the dark and without it being lined up properly, your fun night of stargazing will be a ‘cosmic fail’!
Ensure Battery Packs are Charged Up!
If you have a computerised telescope, always make certain your battery pack/power is charged up before leaving home. GoTo telescopes make finding and following objects in the night sky extremely easy, however, if you have a flat battery pack, your stargazing will be a NoGo! We’ve been there and done that!
Take a Star Chart or Planisphere
In the early days, when I was still learning the night sky and the many patterns of the constellations, I often forgot to take a map of the sky. Without this, finding targets such as planets becomes considerably harder. You can use an Astronomy Almanac, planisphere or have a good App loaded on your phone such as Sky Safari, to help find those elusive astro targets. Find our favourite astronomy apps here!
Why am I losing my Image in the Eyepiece?
I once was all set up on a great target that quickly became dim and hazy. There were no clouds around, I couldn’t figure out why It disappeared even as I checked it was lined up correctly. Ah-ha! In colder weather, dew starts to fog up the scope! A dew shield is a simple but effective way of keeping you out under the stars, well into the night. Learn how to make your own dew shield here!
Don't Get Lost!
When travelling out to a new dark-sky location, be sure to take a map or familiarize yourself with the area. I once got lost returning to my accommodation from a dark sky site. Everything looked different at night when I left. Next time I’ll take better notes of my way out!
Forgot My Beanie!
Nights can get surprisingly cold, even in summer. I have spent more than one cold and uncomfortable night out under the stars! Make sure you are prepared for the elements and take warm clothing including a jacket, scarf, gloves and of course, that ‘must-have’ beanie!
Now You're ready to stargaze, find out where to go!
Western Australia has some of the darkest skies in the world! Check out this list of our favourite places to take our telescopes!