AllCampgrounds Outdoor Adventures: Astronomy While Camping

September 9, 2011
Filed under: Camping
Starry night sky

Starry night sky
Photo by: magicmarie (Stock Exchange)

Welcome to AllCampgrounds!

For the next few weeks we’ll explore some fun things to do while tent camping.

You don’t need fancy camp grounds to enjoy stargazing while you’re out at night, and in many places, parks and camp grounds far from the city lights are the best places to see the wonders the night sky holds.

As you can see from the Astronomy Events Calendar, there are plenty of “star parties” and great stargazing opportunities coming up throughout the year, and many are in the vicinity of terrific camp grounds!

Here’s a little information on how to get started with astronomy on your camping trips.

Choose the right telescope. It’s true that, throughout much of the year, you can see the seasonal constellations by simply matching the stars to a printable star chart like the ones available for free from Sky Maps. But if you want to get the full effect, you’ll have to get a telescope. Telescopes tend to be fairly expensive, so make sure the one you choose is portable and durable for the journey to and from your campsite. “Beginner” models actually intended for kids are surprisingly easy to set up to get you started.

Not ready for a ‘scope yet? Try binoculars. Unlike telescopes, binoculars are sold at many camping goods stores and are intended to “weather” some abuse out there in the wilderness. Many binoculars have strong enough range to get a good look at the stars on a clear night, and they’re fairly inexpensive, so if you’re bringing the whole family, you might be able to tote more than one set so everyone can get in on the fun at the same time. Getting them safely out of the rain is much easier, too; just slip ‘em in a pouch.

Choose the right campsite. When it comes to selecting a campsite, it’s location, location, location. As far as astronomy goes, make sure there’s flat, level, dry ground to set up your telescope on. Stay clear of trees, but not so far from anywhere that that you can’t get out of the rain and wind if it’s a factor. The further you are from artificial lights, the better, but take all the usual precautions if you decide to head out into the backcountry; and be sure to bring a treated weatherproof or nylon bag – think of it as a sleeping bag for your telescope.

Choose the right weather. Well, of course, you can’t technically choose the weather, but weather conditions are a huge factor in determining how much you can see and how well you can see it. Ideal conditions are very clear and free of humidity. Cooler temperatures may be better than warmer ones. Elevation can also play a factor; high ground provides better views than low ground. If you’ve been looking for a good reason to challenge yourself to that winding, mountain trail, stargazing could provide the motivation you need – just don’t try to head back down in the dark!

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