Stargazing is an incredibly rewarding pastime - but getting into it can seem like something of a daunting prospect. There are so many stars out there, for a start, so the idea of being able to identify them on sight can seem like an impossible dream. What’s more, the process itself - with its telescopes and charts, and reams of information to remember - can appear terrifyingly involved, especially to a beginner. However, it need not be so hard as all this. Stargazing began as a pared-down pursuit, and it’s still entirely possible to gain a profound understanding of the celestial bodies and their arrangement with nothing more than a pair of binoculars and a love for the sparkling sky.
Look for the easiest things first
When you walk outside at night at look up at the sky for the first time, it can get a little overwhelming. There’s a lot of stuff up there, and making it cohere into a concrete picture can be very difficult. That’s why one of the best things to do if you’re a beginning stargazer is find out what the most prominent features of the sky are, and look for them first. For instance, planets can be spotted with just your eyes, so find out what Mars looks like and hunt it down. Speaking of hunting, Orion is quite an easy constellations to spot in the northern hemisphere - just look for the group of three stars that make up his belt and you’re on your way. If you can put together a set of the easiest stars, planets, and constellations to find, it’ll give you touchstones with which to form a coherent picture of the sky.
Start with binoculars
When you think of stargazing, you probably think of someone studiously sitting at a telescope, using it to peer into the farthest reaches of the heavens. While this is all well and good, it certainly isn’t necessary to be a top-notch stargazer. A lot of the stars can be distinguished with your eyes, and a pair of binoculars will make all but the trickier celestial bodies crystal clear. In fact, many experienced stargazers recommend not buying a telescope until you’ve come to recognize the sky with your eyes and binoculars alone. As such, it’s a much better idea to buy a pair of binoculars first, and use them to gaze to your heart's content.
Learn what you’re looking for
If you’re going to stargaze, it helps to have an idea of what you’re gazing at. One of the most helpful things you can do to kick off your hobby is taking the time to learn what the sky is comprised of, the characteristics of different celestial bodies, and how they move over the course of a night. If you have an idea of what the sky is going to look like, where things are likely to be, and how you can identify them, it’s going to make spotting them a much easier and faster process. The deeper your knowledge of what the sky looks like, the better you’re going to be at picking things out.
Find a friend
Stargazing is fun, and it can be even more fun with others! If you enjoy looking at the stars in solitude, we completely understand - but for those frustrated or worried about succeeding, bringing a friend or friends along can make getting into stargazing so much easier. You can make a game of seeing who can spot the most objects, learn stars and constellations by teaching them to each other - and it can make a cold night seem a lot more bearable to have someone with you to enjoy it. What’s more, you might even be able to get them hooked on stargazing too!