The Best Way to Stargaze
Channel your inner Copernicus with these celestial suggestions from astronomer Michael Smutko, Ph.D., of Chicago's Adler Planetarium.
- Download and print a sky chart from skyandtelescope.com (click on "Interactive Sky Chart") for the date and your location.
- Since summer weather tends to be humid and hazy, try to get to drier, higher ground for a clear view. "The desert is wonderful, and the mountains are also good," Smutko says. "But a dark spot away from streetlights will do just fine."
- To see planets, start in the early evening. In the summer, Venus appears prominently in the western horizon right after sunset, and Jupiter is the second brightest object in the evening sky―just look south.
- When it's dark, use your sky chart to help identify the Ursa Major (Big Bear) constellation. Start with the Big Dipper―a subgroup in Ursa Major―which looks like a big pot or a ladle. The front edge of the pot points to Polaris, the North Star.