Moon, stars, constellations,
sky that is upside down,
where do we start?

Here are some quick tips to kickstart your stargazing journey. 

Start

During Daytime

Stargazing starts during daytime, when there are some pretty amazing things in the sky to observe. Pay attention to what is up there, the Sun, the Moon and some cool events that can happen during daytime. 

Solar Astronomy is a real thing, and you can see the Sun for yourself with special solar telescopes that protect your eyes. 

The Moon,

You can also see the Moon during daytime, you just need to know where to look. 

Special events, like eclipses and transits

These are spectacular. The next transit is of Mercury is visible in 2032, so we have some time to prepare for it. The next transit of Venus won’t be until 2117 so we have even more time to prepare for it. If you miss that one, then 8th of December 2125. Solar eclipses come a bit more often and they are really great to observe. Next solar eclipse visible from New Zealand will be on the 20th of Apr 2023 – a Partial Solar Eclipse. Next annular solar eclipse (where the Sun is like a ring of fire – so not totally covered) is 9–10 Mar 2035 and finally, FINALLY, on 13th of July 2037 there will be the next Total Solar Eclipse visible from New Zealand. (Data from Time and Date).

The Moon

The Moon at night can be a nuisance, as it makes too much light or a delight when this is what you want to see.  

For stargazing we don’t need the Moon. So learn how to avoid it

To be a successful stargazer, it’s very important to know when the Moon is in the sky. Why? Because the Moon makes too much light and is hard to see fainter objects in the sky. Learning the phases of the Moon comes in really handy for planning and preparation of your stargazing sessions.

Learn how to recognise /remember the phases of the Moon – is not that hard once you got the hang of it. 

What is the best time to observe the Moon?

Of course, if you love the Moon, there are some wonderful features to observe on it. Sam made some awesome exploratory fly-by videos about some very interesting features of the Moon, looking at them very closely. 

When the night falls, the first objects we see are the planets, if they are in the sky. Sometimes the planets are visually so close to the Sun that their light is washed away by the light of the Sun. 

Where exactly are the planets visible in the night sky? 

As they are always orbiting,  moving around the Sun, from Earth, some of them appear close to the Sun, so they can be see just after sunset or just before sundown. Some other, are in the sky all night. 

The Planets

The Stars

First celestial sightings after sundown, besides the planets, are the brightest stars. They are, in order:

  1. Sirius – the Dog Star
  2. Canopus – the Cat Star
  3. Alpha Centauri – our closest neighbour
Once these are up, we will start seeing asterisms and constellations. There are times when Sirius is not visible from New Zealand. 

How do we know which stars are in the sky and when?

Some cultures have the same name for a grouping of stars no matter what time of the year they look at it. Such is the Pleiades. Some other cultures have different names for the same objects observed at different times of the year. Such is Matariki.

What are asterisms and what are constellations? How are they different?

Even though the Pleiades are called Matariki in June, when they mark the Māori New Year, traditionally they had other names throughout the year here in Aotearoa. For instance they were the feathers and the ripples of the bigger asterism which is the canoe of Tamarereti in November.

We call groupings of stars asterisms and they are slightly different from constellations

would you like to learn more?

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