Now is the time of year to grab your telescope and head to the park for a night under the stars. During the summer, you can catch some breathtaking views of the Milky Way gas clouds, and it does not require a telescope to see. It only requires a dark cloudless sky. The band of the Milky Way is currently visible from north to south. It’s amazing when you realize that what you are looking at are not clouds, but actually the interior of our own galaxy.
This time of year, Jupiter is visible as the brightest “star” in the sky for most of the night (currently rising in the Southeast / East about an hour or two after sunset). To actually see Jupiter as more than a bright point of light, you will need a telescope. Obviously some telescopes are better than others, but you should be able to see Jupiter better through any of them.
The moon has always been a favorite of mine. With a good size scope, and high magnification, you can see the details of individual craters. I have spent many nights viewing the moon for hours on end. It never gets old to me. The moon looks different through every phase. When the moon is full, you will loose some detail since the light is hitting most features dead on. When the moon is not full, you can see shadows being cast by impact craters.
Astrophotography is becoming an increasing popular hobby these days with the increasing number of people who own digital SLR cameras. These cameras allow you to adjust ISO, F-Stop, and exposure times. This may be Greek to you if you have never worked with an SLR, but it allows you to capture some breathtaking images of the sky (including nebulae and galaxies). These cameras can be set to gather light for longer periods of time than normal point and shoot cameras. This allows the camera to pick up on visible colors that our eyes cannot. If you do not own a telescope, our parks offer occasional stargazing.
The program starts off with NASA astronomer Kathy Miles teaching about current celestial happening. The stargazing portion of these programs is dependent on the weather.