Stargazing is a free experience for any person who can look up and see the sky. You can take a quick glance at the stars before you get in your car to drive home in the evening. Catch a glimpse when you let your dogs out at night. Or take in a wide span of starlight while camping. All you need are your own eyes.
But there are a few inexpensive things you can take with you to stargaze that will enhance your experience.
Yes, I said lighting. But for the best experience, you need to first turn off your indoor and outdoor lights. If you need light to find your way around to your stargazing location, use a red light flashlight. Your night vision is less disturbed when you use a dim red light instead of a bright white flashlight or the flashlight on your smartphone.
When you stand to stargaze, two things happen. For one, your neck starts hurting after looking up for just a few minutes. And for another, you’re not giving your body and mind the cue to relax, so you start feeling antsy and want to rush back inside. You could take out a blanket to lay on the ground if the weather permits. A camp chair or lounge chair will work well, so long as you can slump down and support your neck. Find something that’s comfortable so you can settle in for a bit and really take in the night sky.
I have a tactical green laser and it’s pretty powerful. I can use this to point to planets, trace the shapes of constellations, and give my family and friends a tour of the sky. The more people know what they’re looking at, the more familiar they’ll get with the sky and the more fun they’ll have. Just remember, never point a laser at planes or in someone’s face. It is not a toy and should be respected as a tool for responsible people to use.
Yes, I just suggested using your smartphone for stargazing. But if you don’t know your way around the night sky or can’t tell a star from a planet, this is a fantastic tool. But there’s a trick to using it properly. Before you even go outside, turn the screen brightness down and turn your night mode on. When you prep your phone in advance, you’ll be able to better preserve your night vision while you’re under the stars.