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How to Stargaze

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If you look up into the night sky, you will probably notice several shiny bits of light; these are the stars (also sometimes planets, but that's not important right now). A large crescent or full circle of light, either white or orange is usually also present; this is the Earth's moon and can also be enjoyed. Many pleasant hours can be spent watching the stars, forgetting about the worries and responsibilities waiting in your normal world. Should a large, yellow ball appear and turn the sky blue, it is the sun and you will have to wait all day before you can try again. You can pass the time by looking at clouds, but please do not gaze at the sun itself, as it is too bright and it will damage your eyes.

You don't really need to know anything about stars to stargaze, all you have to do is look up at night. A little imaginative wondering can enhance the experience. Some of the earliest stories that have been passed down to us from our distant ancestors involve what they thought the stars represented – mythical creatures and events. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot imagine your own.

Some people have become so intrigued by the stars that they begin to study astronomy. While this is a fine endeavour, it is not a requirement.

One of the biggest problems people have when stargazing is that they live in a city and it's very hard to see any stars, no matter how late it is. The best solution is to leave the city. Take a weekend off with your friends, family, significant other, or even just go by yourself. Go out to the country and stay in a motel, or bed and breakfast. If you really want an adventure try camping, or going on an ocean cruise. Anything to get away from the light pollution of the city. Be sure to take a spare blanket to lie on, or even better, a folding lounge chair if you have room.

There are several movements, and even laws to promote 'Dark Skies'. The week of the new moon in April has been promoted worldwide as 'National Dark Sky Week', a time when people are encouraged to reduce outdoor lighting. In many coastal areas where sea animals (especially turtles) nest, there are ordnances that prohibit lights being used near the beach, as they distract the young creatures who have an instinct to follow the starlight reflecting on the waves. Many large parks worldwide are instituting their own dark-sky policies. If you find yourself near one of these areas it will improve your stargazing.

Each night the stars pass slowly overhead from horizon to horizon. If you are extremely lucky you may sight 'shooting stars', or a comet. Another type of moving star could be a man-made satellite. If it has red and green lights it is only an aeroplane, but there is no rule that says you can't watch them also.

As the seasons change, so do the stars available for viewing. If you go a long distance to the north or south you will also be able to gaze at different stars. If you go far enough north you may also be able to view the 'Northern lights' also called the Aurora Borealis. A similar phenomenon occurs for readers in the far southern latitudes.

Stargazing can be enjoyable for many people, but it is understandable that even if you follow these directions you may not have as wonderful a night as you had hoped. The sky might be overcast, or a fog develop in your selected area. If this occurs, pick another night and try again. Maybe things will be better, but if not, don't feel bad. Not every one has to enjoy stargazing. At least you tried it, and you know you're not missing out on anything important. Good luck, and remember to dress warmly – the night air can get pretty cool in many places.

What can be the result of stargazing? This is also only limited by your own imagination. There is a story that is very popular around here about a young man who spent some time laying in a field watching the stars. Truths about philosophy, religion or Greek mythology might be found. You might even learn the true meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Then again you might just be inspired to create your own line of warm outdoor clothing.

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