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Stargazing and camping

If you had to think of a fun activity that the whole family could do together when on a camping trip, stargazing and astronomy would probably be suggested by someone. When a group of amateur scientists goes camping and looks up at the sky, there is never a dull moment. That’s because electromagnetic energy from more than 5,000 stars shines back at people who look up at the sky.

When people go camping, they get away from the bright lights of the city and into quiet, dark places. You need these two things to be able to look at the stars because there won’t be any noise or light to take your attention away from the sky. This lets everyone who wants to look at the stars look for those rare shooting stars and meteor showers without being bothered by other things.

When you live in a city, it’s harder to see the stars. This is because man-made sources of light pollution, like street lights, shopping mall parking lots, and office buildings, fight with the stars for your attention. On a family trip or camping trip, nothing beats setting up your telescope and taking turns looking at the Milky Way.

The best time of the month to look at the stars is on a clear night when there is no moon. This means that the moon should look as close as possible to a thin slice of fingernail. This is called a crescent or gibbous moon. Astronomy is also good during the new moon phase.

Some of the astronomic bodies you will probably want to see are:

  • Moon
  • Planets
  • Comets
  • Meteor shower
  • Shooting stars
  • Double stars

What to consider when buying a telescope

There are many different kinds of telescopes for people who want to look at the night sky. Some have been around since the 1600s. There are three main kinds of telescopes: those that focus light, those that reflect light, and those that use a lens to focus light. Each type has a lot of different styles and hybrids.

If you are a beginner and want to buy your first telescope, you should know what you want to use it for, for example, just for stargazing, photography, planetary, or maybe deep-sky. What are you prepared to pay and how complicated you want your tools to be?

Any astronomical telescope’s main job is to catch light. People often pay attention to the telescope’s magnification, but what’s more important is that it can gather more light than the observer’s untrained eye can.

There are many things to consider when choosing a telescope, but your preferred focal length and aperture are probably the two most important ones. You can think of the focal length of a telescope as how much it “magnifies” the sky and how big an object will look. How bright the object looks will depend on the size of the opening, since a bigger diameter telescope can gather more light at once.

What do you need to go stargazing?

Consider the following useful items to take with you together with some tips for setting up:

  • If you want to do astronomy outside for a long period of time, you should buy a good pair of binoculars in addition to the telescope. Someone can look through the binoculars while someone else uses the telescope. You can even see clear images of the moon with a good pair of binoculars.
  • The nights can get pretty chilly and it is advisable to warm-up those chilly nights with a high-grade tent heater.
  • Don’t forget to bring something to cover the ground if you want to lay down, and some folding camp stools. Not everyone wants to stand to look at the stars all night.
  • Use a red torch to keep your ability to see at night. They are easy to get and help you find things in the dark while your eyes are still getting used to it. Get some red LED lights for the tripod legs so that no one trips over them when they are spread out.
  • Lens cleaner tools are important for cleaning your optics if it gets dusty or windy. A specially made optical lens brush is the only tool for clearing the lens.
  • If you plan on stargazing for most of the night, don’t forget to pack spare batteries for the telescope.
  • Remember the bug spray and water for those hot summer night and gloves, beanies, scarves, heat wraps, blankets for those cold winter nights.
  • Invest in a tripod with built-in level legs.
  • There is also a number of astronomy apps that you can download onto your smartphone.

What are the telescope recommendations?

Follow these guidelines to give you the ultimate stargazing experience while camping under the stars:

  • The telescope must be lightweight and portable
  • Must be usable on non-level ground
  • Must easily fit into a 4-door sedan
  • You should be able to assembly and disassembly it quick and easy
  • Telescopes with larger aperture gives you more advantage of the dark skies
  • Preferable one with no need for power

Conclusion

Stargazing is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. A whole new world lies out there to explore. If you are planning a camping trip to OppiDam Resort, situated at the Vygeboom Dam in Mpumalanga, be sure to take a telescope along.

For more information on OppiDam, visit their website at www.oppidam.co.za  or link onto their Facebook page www.facebook.com/OppidamHouseboats   

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