Looking for a screen-free way to spend time together with your family? What better than enjoying the natural beauty of the night sky or catching a wow-worthy meteor shower? Set yourself up for success with our stargazing tips for kids and our free printable 2021 meteor shower calendar!
Stargazing isn’t just for people who love astronomy, it is something you can do from home with no special tools! As long as you have an idea of where you should be looking and there isn’t much light pollution in your area, you have everything you need to go stargazing!
You don’t need a telescope or to travel to enjoy a night of stargazing. A clear night filled with stars is a sight certainly worth viewing and it can be a great free date night activity, or fun screen-free activity to do with the kids!
When is the Best Time for Stargazing?
There is no one “perfect” time to go stargazing — because the sky is always changing!
If your goal is to see meteors, you’ll want to check out the current meteor shower calendar to get an idea of when to look (see #1 below).
Another thing to keep in mind is the phase of the moon — as you get closer to a full moon, there will be more light in the sky. This may make it more difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to see certain celestial objects.
Honestly, any time is a good time to look at the sky! There is always something to see and something to learn. Plus kids love it! I have fond memories of the special occasions where dad would set up his telescope to show us something cool. Or laying on the back porch at my Granny and Grandad’s farm watching shooting stars.
The sky is amazing no matter what time of year you take a look!
Stargazing Tips for Beginners
The best part about stargazing is that it’s a low/no prep activity! You don’t even have to use a telescope to see many things.
These are some of our tips for getting started and for making your sky viewing a success:
1. Plan ahead
Knowing what you’re looking for is the first key to stargazing success!
If your goal is to find constellations or planets, you’ll want to read up on what they look like and where to find them (see #2).
If you want to enjoy the splendor of a meteor shower, mark your calendars! There are about 12 significant meteor showers a year. Each one may last a few days or a few weeks, but there is usually a 1-2 day peak.
Knowing when to turn your eyes to the sky makes it more likely that you’ll see what you’re looking for!
2021 Meteor Shower Dates:
- Jan. 2–3 — Quadrantids — 25 per hour
- Apr. 21–22 — Lyrids — 10 per hour
- May 4–5 — eta Aquariids — 10 per hour
- July 28–29 — Southern Delta Aquariids & Alpha Capricornids — 10 per hour
- Aug. 11–12 — Perseids — 50 per hour
- Oct. 9–10 — Draconids — 6 per hour
- Oct. 20–21 — Orionids — 15 per hour
- Nov. 11–12 — Northern Taurids — 3 per hour
- Nov. 16–17 — Leonids — 10 per hour
- Nov. 25–27 — Andromedids — 5 per hour
- Dec. 13–14 — Geminids — 75 per hour
- Dec. 21–22 — Ursids — 5 per hour
TIP: Make sure to print a copy of our stargazing tip sheet, which also includes a 2021 meteor shower calendar!
2. Get familiar with your stars and planets
While staring up at a starry sky can be fun in itself, familiarizing yourself with positions of stars, constellations, and planets can make it more exciting.
You can download a stargazing app such as SkyView Lite or look up details about what will be in the sky that night before you leave.
My middle daughter LOVES to look at SkyView Lite because it will show you all the constellations that are visible in your night sky at that exact moment. I have to admit, it’s really cool!
An app like this can be a helpful tool in familiarizing yourself with constellations or getting your bearings when you first head outside and look up.
3. Find a good spot to set up
Before you start your celestial search, it’s a good idea to find a spot outside that has a good view of the night sky. Get as far away from houses, tall buildings, or trees that will obstruct your view.
A balcony or upstairs window may help you to get your line of vision above the tree line or houses in your neighborhood.
If you have a spot in your yard that offers a clear, unobstructed view of the sky above, a comfortable way to stargaze is by lying on a blanket on the ground. This prevents your neck from straining by looking up, and you can rest comfortably while you observe.
Before you get started, turn off as many lights as possible, both inside and outside of your home. If there is a lot of light pollution, you may need to venture outside of your neighborhood to find a good spot. A park or playing field are great options for stargazing.
4. Make sure you’re dressed properly
Before you head outside to look up at the night sky, take a minute to make sure you are dressed appropriately for the occasion.
You’ll likely spend an hour or more outside, and even during the summer months things, it can get chilly at night. Make sure to bring a jacket, or even a blanket to help keep you warm.
Take a second to look up the weather conditions before you go to make sure you know how to dress and what to bring.
5. Let your eyes get used to the dark
After you’ve found where you’ll be setting up, you need to give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. This can take up to a half hour or even up to an hour. During this time, your eyes will be better adjusted to the reduced light levels and make it easier to see the stars.
Bright screens can disrupt this so try your best to avoid using your phone or looking at a screen during this time.
Now it’s time to look up!
Once you know what you’re seeking, where you’ll be sitting, and when you’re going, you’re all set to start gazing!
Our family loves to look at the stars, especially meteor showers. There is something so amazing about watching those other-worldly streaks of light in the sky. Television ain’t got nothing on nature’s show!
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