Explore the heavens together

Take time to slow down and appreciate what the universe has to offer with a family night out stargazing! Here are some tips and tricks to exploring the night sky with your family:

Choose a clear night with comfortable temperatures and…

Get out of the city

Get as far away as you can from the city’s light pollution which dilutes stars’ brightness. In northern Colorado, driving to the mountains or out into the country provides a vibrant view of the stars.

Use tools to locate objects

Planisphere: Star chart in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot to display the visible stars and constellations for any date and time. These can be found at bookstores or where telescopes are sold as well as online.

Apps: Several smartphone apps (e.g., Sky Map by Google, Stellarium) are available for stargazing by using your phone’s GPS to help you find the position of constellations, stars and planets.

Telescopes/binoculars: These instruments come in all price ranges and kids versions are available at local retailers and online. Joe Adlhoch, president of Northern Colorado Astronomical Society, says “Read up about the legends of the constellations and share that with your children. Once you have some familiarity with the night sky, you can use simple binoculars to enhance your fun. Binoculars will allow you to see craters on the moon, star clusters and bright nebulae. A small telescope will show the four moons of Jupiter, Saturn’s rings and bright galaxies.”

Printed materials: The library and book stores offer books and magazines (e.g., Astronomy, Sky & Telescope) for all ages and skill levels to learn about the night sky.

Engage and entertain various ages

As long as you’re bending bedtime rules, go all out with some fun themed treats like moon pies or constellation cookies. Bring blankets and pillows to snuggle up in on the ground.

Younger children are likely to lose interest in looking at the sky for more than 15 minutes, but it’s possible to keep their attention longer if you bring along children’s books about the stars or night sky. Kids can make connections with the story and what they’re witnessing above them to feel a part of something way bigger than they are.

Older children are likely to have learned some information about planets, constellations, meteors and more in school. Allow them to use a telescope if you have one or binoculars and guide them in spotting the Milky Way, constellations such as the Big/Little Dippers, Orion the Hunter, Scorpius as well as planets.

Stargazing offers opportunities to connect with nature and your children–and possibly spark an interest in science. Enjoy the time together and the show!

The Northern Colorado Astronomical Society (NoCoAstro) is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to promoting the science of astronomy and to encourage and coordinate activities of amateur astronomers.” Learn more about the organization at www.nocoastro.org or attend a local telescope skygazing event conducted by club volunteers:

Lory State Park Park pass required: www.cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Lory
  • Friday, June 4, 9–11pm
  • Saturday, June 26, 9–11pm
Fort Collins Natural Areas Registration required: www.fcgov.com/events
  • Saturday, June 12, 9–11pm, Bobcat Ridge
  • Friday, June 18, 9:30–11:30pm, Fossil Creek Reservoir