Urban stargazing can be such fun. But your enjoyment can be hindered by intrusive light pollution which comes from many sources. Street lights, car parks, floodlights from football and other sports stadiums, shops and shopping centres. Each and every little hint of errant light greatly decreases the visibility of stars and planets. Unfortunately many amateur astrologists are unaware of this. Those who are contemplating urban stargazing should check out their surrounds and opt for the more shadowed areas for their sky viewing. Most star gazing is done at night and for this reason one needs to dress appropriately.
You may need warm clothes which are not restricting. Tight clothes hinders your movement and could make star watching very uncomfortable indeed. Besides, the best stargazing is enjoyed during the cooler months. Now stargazing can be time consuming as well so take along a fold up camp chair if possible. Of course this will depend on the terrain you have chosen. You will need a good quality torch, your star chart and of course your binoculars or telescope. One does not need to spend a fortune on telescopes and binoculars to be able to see stars. But only you can judge how intense or high-tech you wish your viewing equipment to be. Dark adaptation should be taken into the equation as well.
The human eye takes some time to adjust to the dark. This is because your pupils expand to almost their fullest night-time size within mere seconds when you step out into the dark. Dark adaptation involves chemical changes to the retina. This is why faint objects are so hard to see after you have been indoors for some time. Experienced astronomers have used dim red flashlights because red lights harms your night vision the least. Try preserving dark adaptation by observing with one eye and reading your star charts with another. Tote an eye patch for covering the eye which is not in use. And do give yourself at least ten to thirty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Using binoculars? There are a host of benefits to using binoculars while stargazing. They allow you to find far more stars than the naked eye can. When you look at star clusters and galactic clouds with the naked eye they look so dim. Good quality binoculars allow you to see these quite clearly. While telescopes give you an inverted view of things, binoculars allow you to see everything the right side up. Besides, you can now view the heavens above with both eyes. Binoculars give you a broader field of view and that’s a plus. Stargazing is simplified and binoculars are so easy to operate while becoming acquainted with the constellations. And yes, you can certainly see comets with binoculars.
You may need a tripod mount for stabilising your telescope. These are ideal for those with a not too steady hand. One trick of the trade is to drill a hole in each leg of the mount and use tent pegs pushed into the ground for added stability. If this sounds like too much trouble another trick is to place ball bearings or sinkers into a small bag, pouch etc and hang this from a hook you have attached to the underside of the mount. These will keep your telescope mount steady. If you are contemplating the purchase of a telescope for urban stargazing there area few things you do need to know. Irrespective of where you are star gazing from, the bigger the telescope, the more you will see. More means being able to see further into space.
This means you will enjoy more detail, especially faint stars. You will also be able to view objects at a higher magnification and your images will be much brighter. But even small scopes will allow you to view objects which have plenty of brightness such as Jupiter. If your primary object is to view the sun, moon and planets a large telescope is not necessary. But other celestial objects will be better seen with the largest telescope you can afford. Both financially and strength wise. The best option is to choose a telescope with a mirror which is larger than six inches. Choose good quality lens and don’t even think about budget sale lens as these will only magnify their cheap construction. 6-8 inch Dobsonian reflectors and Schmidt-Casse grains are said to be the most popular ‘serious’ telescopes in the world. These sell like hotcakes and for good reason.
Prepare yourself well, be comfortable, take along some refreshments, remember your star chart and enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Urban stargazing is fun, magical, exciting, rewarding and highly educational.