Stargazing in the Mountains
Late summer and fall are great times to observe celestial activity, especially now that the smoke has cleared, and the further you get from city lights the better the view you’ll have. For the adventurous stargazer, hiking to a mountain peak is a great way to see the constellations, shooting stars and more but, in addition to standard outdoor safety precautions, there are a few things to consider before you grab your telescope and head out…
- Arrive during daylight to set up and become familiar with the terrain. Identify routes to go to the bathroom etc. while you can see. Try and pick a site as open as possible so that nothing obstructs your view of the sky. Remember too that trees make the trail darker, so plan to have lots of daylight left by the time you get to the top.
- Bring a headlamp and extra batteries, plus a hand flashlight and extra batteries for general safety, and a red light for function. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to fully develop your night vision and if you use a small red light, instead of a normal white light, you will retain your night vision. Use the red light to read your star charts etc. during the night too.
- Bring hiking poles. If your site is located near steep edges, use the poles to feel around as you walk (more for when light is fading/you move position at night etc.)
- Place a towel or thick blanket under your tripod in case you drop things. This will help to keep them from breaking/make them easier to find later. Attach glow-sticks to the tripod legs so that no one trips over them.
- Pack bug spray… they seem to come out more at night.
- Be prepared for visitors by bringing bear-bangers/animal scares. You’re hanging out with nocturnal creatures now!
- Refer to astronomy sites and source/download star charts before you go so you have an idea of what you’ll be looking at. Other suggested stargazing tools include binoculars (it’s a good idea to visit astronomy sites for their comprehensive lists and viewing pointers though!).
- Complete a Trip Plan before you leave
Though the Perseid Showers is now finished, there are still a few events coming up. According to a National Geographic website, Jupiter and Venus will be exceptionally close together on November 13th and the best time to see them will be just before dawn. December 13/14th is predicted to have the best display of the Geminid Meteors, and again, pre-dawn will be the best time to see them. Want to check out the International Space Station? Visit NASA’s spotthestation.nasa.gov webpage to see when it’s coming your way! Chilliwack area residents can view the ISS at these times in early September.
A special thanks to two CSAR members: Dan for his suggestions above, and Utah (@utah.jack) for sharing his incredible photo, taken on a task on Mt. Rexford in 2016.