The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Stargazing

When one thinks of stargazing, usually the first thing they think of is somebody with a telescope in the middle of a dark field, staring up at the night sky. That someone would not be entirely mistaken, for in theory there isn’t all that much to stargazing outside of what has just been mentioned. However, one of the greatest things about this pastime is that there’s a lot more to it once you scratch underneath the surface. If one has the right level of interest for this then stargazing can be something that’s not only fulfilling, but one may dare say enlightening.

One of the best perks to stargazing is that it’s very easy to do. True, there are observatories of which to view the night sky in more vibrant detail, but if you just want to sit on a hillside somewhere and look up, then you don’t even really need a telescope. All you require is a quiet, open space and your own eyes. It costs nothing, and is adaptable to a variety of occasions. You can use the opportunity to learn more about our universe out of personal interest, or you can follow the timeless cliché of naming stars with a significant other for romantic purposes. Is it corny? Maybe, but there’s a reason it’s become a cliché as there is something quietly grand about the act. If that’s not to your liking, then you could use stargazing in a similar way to how one may use going on a run or a quiet walk by themselves. It’s a hobby, but it can also act as a moment of tranquillity for you to collect yourself and reflect upon your recent choices, all while admiring the purity of the great beyond through the end of a telescope.

Although perhaps the best perk to stargazing is that you can acquire a newfound appreciation for all things based in nature and the cosmos. As pretentious as that may sound, the Universe and what’s currently beyond our scientific reach is perhaps the purest form of nature out there. Whether it be viewing the stars of our neighbouring galaxy Andromeda, or connecting the dots of the constellations above our heads, all of what we’re seeing has been untouched by human technology. For many, we can only imagine what amazing sights and unbelievable environments are still out there. On the one hand, it is a little depressing as for some this is merely a reminder on how small and insignificant we are as a species, and how our planet is only one of quadrillions out there. However, seeing just how vast and full of potential the night sky, and thus the universe is, may just be the kick some of us need to appreciate the smaller, finer things in our own lives.

If this is something that you’ve been considering taking up then here are some of the incredible places in our night sky right now. One of the downsides to summertime is that due to nights getting shorter our window for stargazing is somewhat more limited. If you like late nights however, then over the summer you’ll be able to see the planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and even Saturn towards the end of it. A useful way to identify a planet from a star is that a planet does not ‘twinkle’ (or ‘scintillate’ to give the scientific name). We can also see various constellations over the summer, including Hercules, Cephues and Aquilla, along with the zodiac constellations of Leo, Cancer and Libra; each containing their own, unique objects – whether ‘nearby’ Nebulae or million light-year-away Galaxies. The UK Sky Chart website is a useful tool to help you identify the star patterns and objects, before finding them for yourself at night.

As for where the best place to stargaze is, you need a place of low light pollution. One huge downside to Glasgow is the sheer amount of light the city emits via street lamps and windows, which can obscure much of the night sky from our vision. Glasgow doesn’t give you a huge range of options, especially since the best places like Queens View and the Galloway Forest Park are a bit of a drive out of the city, but there are alternatives that are a bit closer such as the Coats Observatory in Paisley or even the Campsie Fells. It does take time to get to given its location, but for the stunning, unsullied views of the night sky that you’ll treat yourself to, it’s more than worth it.

So, if stargazing sounds like a leisure you might find some appreciation for, then why not consider adding it to your summertime checklist? It’s something that’s as illuminating as it is spectacular. Whether you wish to share the experience with someone or keep it to yourself as a moment of self-evaluation, there’s plenty of wonders among the cosmos for you to discover.


[Calum Cooper – @Calumthefilmguy)


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