When looking for stargazing spots near you, it’s a good idea to search for locations where there is less light pollution – such as the top of a mountain. If you happen to live in a mountainous region, you should consider searching for stars, constellations, and so on from a high altitude, away from most light sources. With this in mind, here are some tips for mountain stargazing.
Watching Stars Without (Or Less) Light Pollution
If you have a sophisticated instrument for night stargazing that is also easily transportable, such as a portable telescope or a binocular, it’s even better. But even if you don’t, there are a few reasons for which mountain stargazing is cool. Stargazing from a good location can offer amazing views and the possibility of learning more about the universe – if you also read about the things you observe).
Those of you who have stargazing as a hobby might already know that the best places to see the Milky Way are outside cities and towns, as the light emitted by humans significantly interferes with what comes from the stars – this is why stars look less bright if you observe them from a very anthropic location and also the reason for which the world’s famous observatories are not located in the middle of cities (and selling tickets to see these observatories would probably be a great way for NASA and others to increase their budget).
The effect light can have on stars is also obvious during a new moon – those nights when the moon’s light is hidden. Without the moonlight interfering with the lights from other celestial bodies, you can see significantly more stars, something which is perhaps even more interesting if you have some astronomy knowledge and you are able to identify some of the many dots.
On the other hand, if you prefer to see a huge moon and care less about the stars, you should know that the moon looks several times brighter than the stars when watched from the top of a mountain. The best period to watch the moon is arguably during a full moon. Full moonrises are quite spectacular, and unless stargazing is the priority, I highly recommend seeing one from a summit of your choice.
Whether you are more interested in the moon or the stars, one thing you would probably like to do is take photos of the sky. While a professional camera will certainly take much better pictures of the stars and the moon compared to the majority of cameras amateurs use (no offense), you can still take great photos as long as you don’t have a low-end camera or you believe a smartphone can handle it.
No matter what type of camera you have, there are a few things to know before you engage in astrophotography. First of all, you will not want to use the flash, something which is probably obvious, as the light from the flash will mask the light of the stars.
Something that is less known is the importance of long exposures. Such exposure leads to having pictures showing stars as lines instead of dots. These lines are caused by the Earth’s movement in relation to the stars. Basically, these photos will show the stars as moving and leaving a trace behind them.
If you want to have both a more realistic picture of the sky and one that looks like you have applied some special effects, you may consider taking a few pictures with long exposure, as some of them can look more appealing than the ones that match what you observe with the naked eye.
Another important tip is to use long shutter speeds, wide apertures, and a high ISO, as you want to capture as much light as possible to produce a good picture. Having a manual control for the shutter speed and ISO is highly recommended. Finally, you will want to have a tripod, as the stability of your camera will significantly influence the quality of the photo.
Stargazing Survival Tips
No need to say; there are a few surviving tips that are worth taking into account before engaging in mountain stargazing. One of them is to consider that if you try to avoid producing any light or sound that might disturb your celestial experience, chances are some other beings might approach you. I am not talking about aliens (which would be very cool and probably unlikely) but other Earthly species that can be aggressive if they feel threatened. If you go to a not necessarily safe location, make sure you are with your car and stay close to it.
Ready to Climb?
Is going to the top of a mountain for stargazing worth it? If you are really passionate about the universe and like to observe it, the answer is most likely yes. If you don’t care about astronomy but still love to look at the sky at night, the answer is the same. If you don’t care that much about stargazing, but you love mountaineering, the answer is probably the same.
If you happen to be at the peak of a mountain and you observe what appears as an alien spacecraft, please take several good pictures of them and, if possible, make a film. There are many fake pictures and movies (maybe all of them, maybe not), and we would love to see something that might clarify, at least partly, some of the most significant urban and rural legends of the 20th and 21st centuries.