Distancing with the stars: how to see the stars from home

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Image by Eric Hanson/Getty Images

Don't miss this week's meteor shower!

In the age of social distancing, we are no strangers to the feeling of isolation. For many, working from home and avoiding social activities that give a sense of purpose and excitement to daily life can feel draining.

There is nothing that quite puts the world and the struggles we are all facing into perspective like the night sky. Standing underneath a sea of bright stars can feel captivating, humbling and even intimidating. It is also an activity that lends itself easily to social distancing, which is why stargazing may be exactly what we need right now.

In our modern world, it is oftentimes difficult to see the stars due to light pollution from cities. However, there are still ways to view the night sky even from the city or just outside of it.

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Photo by Andy Pearce

If you live in an urban area, follow these five tips for stargazing close to home:

1. Avoid a full moon

While looking at the moon is captivating, a full moon can make it difficult to see the stars. In places with heavy light pollution in particular, the added light from the moon can make stargazing trickier. Wait until the moon is smaller or not visible at all to stargaze from the city.

2. Look at the weather

Before heading out to look at the night sky, make sure cloud cover and moisture in the air are minimal. A clear sky will make the stars that much more spectacular!

3. Figure out what you’re looking for

Knowing which constellations and planets will be in the sky and getting an idea for what they look like before leaving home will make them easier to pick out when you get outside. Save a constellation map to your phone or even download an app that helps you navigate the night sky!

4. Find the right location

Blocking the lights of the city will help your night vision as you view the stars. If you can get to a place, like a local park or the hills just beyond the city, that naturally blocks the light, do it! If not, try to find a place where things like your house with the lights off and a shed in your backyard can block the neighborhood lights.

5. Bring some equipment!

Most people don’t have a telescope at their immediate disposal. However, if you have a pair of binoculars or even a small telescope, you’ll have an even better view of the night sky. Most lower-end DSLR cameras can take beautiful photos of the night sky with a longer shutter speed, high ISO and open aperture.


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Comet NEOWISE and a fire burning near Grand Canyon National Park, shot on Canon t6i by Andy Pearce

Upcoming meteor showers that you could plan viewing for are:

Delta Aquarids (July 30-31)
Perseids (August 11-13)
Draconid (Oct 9)
Orionid (Oct 21-22)
Taurid (Nov 9)
Leonid (Nov 17-18)
Andromedid (Nov 25-27)
Geminid (Dec 13-14)
Ursid (Dec 22)

Different constellations are visible during different times of year. In the northern hemisphere summertime, you’ll see constellations like Cygnus, which resembles a swan and lies on the plane of the Milky Way, and Scorpius, which symbolizes a scorpion. Winter will bring constellations that include Orion, named after a hunter from Greek mythology, and Taurus, one of the oldest constellations in the sky.

If you’re feeling the need to escape reality right now, head outdoors this evening and look up. What better way to social distance than to head outside at night and find a quiet, dark place to be alone with the universe?


Kyla Pearce is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a student at Arizona State University.

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