Beehive cluster

Stargazing Tips & Tricks—Plus a Handy Metro-Area Map

Bell Museum staff share their favorite dark-sky locations, tips, and tricks for stargazing

Published01/11/2021 , by Emily Dzieweczynski

While there may be snow on the ground, that doesn’t stop the stars in the sky! Stargazing is a great outdoor activity even in the chilly winter months. To help you join in the fun, the Bell Museum staff have compiled a list of prime stargazing spots in Minnesota. Before you gaze, we recommend looking at your city’s website to check out park hours.  

If you want to suggest your favorite stargazing spot to add to the map, email the Bell at bellinfo@umn.edu

 

 

Ready to go? We’ve created a list of tips and tricks for your next stargazing adventure.

  • Dress for the weather

Perhaps the most important tip to remember is to dress for the weather. Wear a couple of extra layers, bring hand warmers and your favorite hot beverage in the winter, and bug spray in the summer–the elements stop for no stargazer. 

  • Bring a red flashlight

A sudden blast of white light from your phone or a regular flashlight while stargazing can ruin your eyes’ dark adaptation. We recommend bringing a red flashlight and to avoid using your phone’s flashlight. If you don’t have a red flashlight, you can cover your cellphone with red plastic or search for a “red light filter” in your phone’s app store to download before you go.

  • Grab a star map

One of the most thrilling parts of stargazing is being able to identify your observations. There are many stargazing apps to help you navigate the sky, however, the Bell Museum offers a monthly star map that you can download and print to avoid using unnecessary light from your phone. 

  • Pack folding chairs

Folding chairs are key for winter nights when you need to stay off the cold ground. In the summer, bringing along a picnic blanket will do the trick. 

  • Take binoculars or a telescope

This one isn’t necessary but can help increase your stargazing game. Binoculars are a great tool to start with, and in some cases lead to better observing than looking through a telescope. Features on the Moon are a great place to start exploring with binoculars.

Next time you’re out stargazing, you can also participate in the community-science campaign led by our partners at the Globe at Night. Working to raise public awareness of light pollution, Globe at Night’s campaign asks community members to measure the night sky brightness via a computer or smartphone. The campaign works by asking participants to identify the faintest star of a constellation within a certain range of dates, so there are opportunities to participate monthly! To find out more about how you can help in 6 easy steps, visit https://www.globeatnight.org/6-steps.php 

To find out more about the Bell’s Star Parties, Constellation Hunter videos, and Star Map downloads, visit https://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/astronomy/