Gazing up at the stars is one of the best nighttime outdoor activities. These pinpoints of light seem endless when you are away from the city lights. When you were a child lying on the ground staring up at the sky, you may have felt like you could just pluck the stars from above and hold them in your hand.
Think of the sky as a great invisible chalkboard and draw the constellations with your finger. Find the North Star beaming against the dimmer stars surrounding it. Trace a trail of bright stars that make up the tail of the Little Dipper. Track slowly upwards and connect the dots to form the lopsided bowl and then the jointed handle of the Big Dipper. Find the three glowing stars that form Orion’s Belt, and outline his body and sword. Camping under the stars allows you to witness incredible wonders in the night sky.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Stargazing
Staring up at the stars is awe-inspiring, but it helps to know which constellations to look for, what gear to bring and how to make the most of your stargazing time. If you are wondering how to stargaze, consider these stargazing tips:
1. Research Before You Go
For the best stargazing experience, it is oftentimes helpful to do a little research before you go.
Visit a local bookstore to find a book or a guide that provides illustrations and suggestions on how to spot planets, comets and other celestial phenomena.
A number of websites are devoted to helping folks identify constellations. Some sites allow you to print a sky map that will show you where stars will appear and give you constellation lines and names to use as a reference. You can even use your phone to find helpful stargazing resources and apps. The iPhone-friendly SkyView – Explore the Universe or the Sky Map app for Android users provide information and assistance in searching for constellations.
2. Find the Right Spot
A dark, quiet place is the best stargazing setting. Find an empty clearing away from other campsite lights so you can have the best view of the sky. Lights can hinder your view of the stars, so find a spot as far away from artificial light as possible.
3. Protect Your Night Vision
Lanterns and flashlights create light pollution that can prevent a clear view. Cover your white lantern or flashlight with cellophane or red paper. This will make it easier to see more stars and dimmer constellations. Turn your phone screen off or turn your screen red to protect your night vision.
4. Bring the Right Supplies
Make the most of your stargazing experience with the right gear. Here is what to bring for stargazing:
- Comfortable chair or blanket
- A star chart to help you find and identify constellations
- Binoculars or a telescope
- Warm clothes
5. Give Your Eyes Time to Adjust
Allow your eyes to adapt to the darkness after you arrive at your stargazing site. Turn off any flashlights, lanterns, phone screens and car headlights, then wait about half an hour for your eyes to relax. During this process astronomers call “dark adaptation,” your pupils will open to adapt to reduced light levels. You’ll have the chance to see even more stars and planets than when you first arrived at your stargazing site.
6. Look for Incredible Views
You can witness incredible views while stargazing if you know what to look for:
- Star colors: Stars often change color and temperature as they age. Try to look for stars that are white, blue, yellow, orange or red.
- Constellations: The sky is full of constellations, which are groups of stars named after people, animals and objects.
- The Milky Way: Light from millions of distant stars makes up the Milky Way. It may appear as a faint cloud if you are able to see it. The best time to view it is February to October.
- Moon phases: While stargazing, check which phase the moon is in. The sun reflects on the moon’s surface differently depending on its position around Earth. While stargazing, you may see a full moon or you may only be able to see a small sliver of it.
- Wildlife: Watch for wildlife while stargazing. You may be able to see or hear owls, bats, opossums, raccoons and other animals under the night sky.
- Northern lights: Visit Alaska in the winter for a chance to view the northern lights.
Enjoy Stargazing at Kampgrounds of America
Camp at KOA to enjoy the great outdoors and marvel at the night sky. Whether you enjoy the view from your campsite, drive to a stargazing location or hike to a remote lookout point, KOA is the perfect basecamp for your stargazing adventures. KOA has over 500 locations across North America, so you can enjoy stargazing at your favorite destinations.
KOA offers various camping options such as Premium Tent Sites, Back-In and Pull-Thru RV Sites, Deluxe Cabins and unique lodging options. Book a stay at KOA to relax, have fun and witness the incredible night sky.
Remember — the stars above your KOA Campsite continue to shine and still have stories to tell after billions of years. All you have to do is look up.
About the Author: Kampgrounds of America
Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting KOA.com/blog.