Why worry about finding a five-star hotel when camping offers an estimated 300 billion stars in just the Milky Way alone? These tips will help prepare stargazers of all ages for a dazzling night under the stars.
The closest observable star to Earth is the Sun. It's about 93 million miles away and 865,000 miles in diameter (as wide as 109 Earths placed side by side). About 1 million Earths would fit inside the Sun!
Twinkling stars are called "astronomical scintillation." As starlight travels through Earth's atmosphere, it is bent by turbulence. Some light reaches us directly, other light is slightly bent. This is what looks like twinkling to the human eye.
When you step outside from a bright room, it might take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Give it time and then get ready for a beautiful star show!
There are multiple stars for every grain of sand on Earth. A rough estimate says there are 5 to 10 times more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the world's beaches.
Cool stars in the sky are red, while the hottest stars are blue. Seems counterintuitive; but blue light (shorter wavelengths) is more energetic than red (longer wavelengths) thus hotter. There are exceptions.
Star surfers have 15 seconds to look up and choose a star and keep their eye on it. Timekeeper says "begin," and star surfers spin in a circle with their eyes on their star. After 30 seconds, the timekeeper says "surf," and everyone jumps into a surfing position, bringing their gaze back to normal.
Bring along black paper construction paper and stickers and let kids design or replicate constellations that they see in the night sky. They can also come up with their own constellation ideas as well!
Look back over the last 4,000 years of picturing the stars, including van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” one of the most famous artistic depictions of the night sky. Bring black construction paper and pastels to make an art project out of it!
It can be difficult to capture the awe of the night sky with photos, but a few tips will make it easier, and may even help capture surprising images of nighttime wildlife, too. Remember to practice—take a lot of photos and see what works and what doesn't. Review, and repeat!
Night photos have very little light available, and each photo takes longer to process. This means every small shake can end up blurring your photograph. A tripod, table, log, or other solid surface will help.
It's estimated that getting at least 60 miles from a city helps reduce light pollution. If you're taking photos of stars, consider whether light from the moon will interfere.
You don't always need the fanciest equipment, but it's very helpful to learn how it works. Test automatic settings or learn how to manually adjust them.
Learn the recommended settings for what you're trying to photograph, and then test them. Sometimes a small adjustment to your settings can make a huge difference in your photos.
Adapted from "Gazer Guide: Prepare for Your Night Under the Stars" by Dani Tinker
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