Stargazing for Everyone

Our giveaway winner is Nicole from Journey to Excellence…Congrats & thanks for entering!

I’m so excited about our guest post today. Dr. Lisle shares ways your family can see the skies with household & inexpensive equipment. We love stargazing and I’m excited to try some of his ideas. Be sure to check out the upcoming transit of Venus (June 5-6) and how your kids can see it firsthand. The transit is rare and won’t be seen again until 2017!

Milky Way - StargazingThe recent annular solar eclipse reminds us of just how many celestial wonders can be viewed without the aid of an expensive telescope. The sun (with appropriate filters for safety), the moon, the Milky Way, aurora, meteor showers, the constellations, and several star clusters are all visible with the unaided eye, if you know where and when to look.

These gems can be enjoyed by virtually everyone, without the need for pricy equipment. Stargazing is a wonderful and inexpensive hobby for homeschool families.

How To Stargaze

With a set of low-cost binoculars, an even larger world of celestial wonders opens up to stargazers. The moon is especially stunning during its first quarter phase, when it is half illuminated on the west side and high in the sky just after sunset. During this phase, the sunlight casts deep shadows along the craters and ridges near the moon’s terminator, revealing its spherical shape.

Stargazing - Solar EclipseBinoculars allow homeschooling stargazers to see hundreds of amazing star clusters in the night sky. The Beehive cluster is a favorite during the spring. The Ptolemy and Butterfly clusters lie low in the South in the summer.

Binoculars reveal dozens of blue stars in the Pleiades in our winter sky. Even the Orion Nebula is easily visible with low power binoculars.

Transit of Venus

The upcoming transit of Venus this June is an event that no family should miss. Venus will cross directly in front of the sun – appearing as a tiny black disk against the bright solar sphere. This event will happen on the evening of June 5th for North America, and on the morning of June 6th for the Eastern Hemisphere.

Transits of Venus are very rare; the next one will not occur until the year 2117.

Transit of Venus - stargazingThe transit can be safely viewed by using the same precautions used to view the sun during a solar eclipse. “Eclipse glasses” are great and usually cost less than $5.

However, Venus will be very tiny without magnification. Binoculars will provide a much better view; this can be done safely in one of two ways.

First, solar filters which fit over the objective lenses of the binoculars will allow you to look through the binoculars directly. The solar filter must be placed over the (usually larger) lenses that are pointed at the sun.

Second, binoculars can be used without filters using the projection method. Leave the lens caps on one of the two objective lenses (we only need a single image). The binoculars are then pointed at the sun as usual, but instead of looking through them (which would be dangerous without filters) an image is projected on white paper several feet away.

Let your kids focus the binoculars to bring the light into a crisp image. Moving the paper farther away will make the image larger but fainter. Placing a cardboard cut-out around the binoculars will help increase the contrast and make the image easier to see.

Want To Learn More...

For more information, check out The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky available at Amazon dot com.

  • Designed for everyone from students to amateur astronomers
  • Learn the best ways and optimal times to observe planets and stars
  • Discover how you can choose the best telescope for you
  • Includes 150 beautiful, full-color star-charts and other easy to use illustrations for success

This Week's Giveaway

Dr. Lisle is giving away a copy of his book to one of our lucky readers. Leave a comment below and you are entered to win. You can also like this article on facebook, tweet it on twitter, share on Google+ or pin on pinterest. Each of those will give you another entry.

If you watch the Transit of Venus, please share your experience in a comment below.

by Dr. Jason Lisle
Fascinated by the precision and beauty of the universe since he was a child, Dr. Jason Lisle is the director of research for the Institute for Creation Research. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Astronomy from Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a Masters and PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado in Boulder.