Now that the nights have warmed up and the spring storms have cleared, it’s stargazing season. And there couldn’t be a better place for it than Park City.
With its clear mountain air, isolation from cities and suburbs, and outdoor recreation areas, Park City has everything that stargazers could want. Here are some tips to make your amateur stargazing excursion a success:
Get to Know the Night Sky
Your first task is to learn some basic constellations. This will help you find yourself in the night sky and focus your sights on areas of interest. This mostly takes practice and some star chart study. Bring a chart with you, or consider getting a star wheel. These are easy to carry around, easy to read, and easy to find.
There are also some apps that you can have on your phone that make stargazing more fun for a casual amateur. Check out Night Sky, Starwalk, and the ISS Detector.
Bring blankets and dress warm. Although it’s summer, nights in the mountains run cold. Think about bringing some snacks, or hot chocolate in a thermos.
You don’t necessarily need a telescope. Many major astronomy events are visible with binoculars. Binoculars are cheaper than telescopes, they have a wide field of view, which makes it easier to find your way aroundÂ the sky, and they don’t flip or reverse the image, which makes them easier to work with. With a good pair of binoculars and a clear sky, you’ll be able to see craters on the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and even the Orion nebula.
Keep It Dark
NotÂ only do you need to get out of the city lights, but you’ll also want to keep the lighting in your little locale to a minimum. Your eyes take 40 minutes to an hour to adjust to the night sky.Â If possible, bring a red-filtered flashlight. This allows you to find things without wrecking your night vision.
Some Events to Watch for This Summer:
June 3: Saturn at opposition. Saturn will be fully lit by the sun. It’s the perfect time to get a really good look at the beautiful ringed planet.
July 28-29: Delta Aquarids meteor shower. This moderate shower radiates from the constellation Aquarius. At its peak, you might see up to 20 meteors per hour.
August 12-13: Perseids meteor shower. This summer favorite always puts on a good show, with up to 60 meteors visible per hour at its peak. After midnight, the moon will set, leaving great dark-sky views.
August 27: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. It’s time for the two brightest planets to get together. They’ll come within .06 degrees of each other. To the naked eye, it might just look like one bright star, but with binoculars you should be able to see the two planets side by side.
Sept 28: Mars and Lagoon. Although Mars will be more visible at other times of the year, this is a great opportunity to see Mars framed by Lagoon, a beautiful nebula over 4000 light years away. It’s a great photo opp, although it might take specialized equipment to get a good view.