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Seeing stars: Sky and stargazing tips with the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society

Looking to take up a new hobby? Consider looking up—and we don’t just mean the clouds. By peering up into the night sky, you could observe anything from constellations to the International Space Station. Whether through sky gazing, which is defined as looking up with a blind eye, or stargazing, in which a telescope or other device is used, there is so much to be discovered in the atmosphere.

We gleaned some tips and tricks for beginners from Christopher Kersey, member of Baton Rouge Astronomical Society and manager of the Highland Road Park Observatory:

1. Start out your stargazing hobby with a manual reflector or a pair of binoculars.

Be sure to get a reflecting telescope rather than a refracting telescope. A reflecting telescope is good for looking for all objects, while a refracting telescope is better for looking at the moon and planets.

2. Download the Starry Night software.

It comes in four different versions with different levels of complexity. At $49.95, the introductory version is perfect for beginners. Input your location and it will easily help you track your targets. (Sidenote: for more casual observations with the naked eye, Kersey also suggests the Sky Guide app).

3. Want to get some photos of the sky? Start with sky gazing first.

Photography can be difficult—and expensive. In most cases, you’ll need a tracking telescope to snap a quality shot. Familiarize yourself with the sky and make sure it’s a hobby worth investing in.

4. For the best view of the sky, do your stargazing 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise or after sunset.

At these times, the sun’s light is completely gone, allowing you a clear view of the night sky. If you’re hoping to catch a meteor streak, it’s best to look after midnight.

5. Last but not least, be aware that light pollution is a very serious enemy of the hobby of sky gazing.

As a community, we can take steps to keep our streets and parking lots lit while reclaiming the natural sky.

Learn more about this hobby, as well as the Highland Road Park Observatory, in this story from the inRegister archives.