The night sky has filled us with awe for thousands of years
For thousands of years, people have been standing on the Earth and staring up at the stars. The image of the heavens conjures a sense of peace within us, and awe that something so big and vast surrounds our tiny blue planet.
It was the image of the stars that helped the first people create stories of heavenly figures that would come down to visit us. Many constellations were in different locations thousands of years ago, and though the stars are already dead before the light reaches us, the constellations still shine. While there are many things to enjoy at night while you’re camping, we think stargazing is one of the best. So how can you learn which clusters of stars are constellations?
Harness the power of technology
Not long ago, the way to identify constellations was with an astrolabe, books, or learning from someone else who knew where they were. Today, we have technology to help us out. Two of the apps you’ll want to check out are Starmap and Google Sky.
Starmap is simply that, a downloadable map of the stars. The maps are all of the northern hemisphere and are designed to help you determine what you’re seeing and where specific stars are located.
Google Sky, on the other hand, allows you to travel through our universe from the comfort of your RV or your tent. You can even use Google Sky to tell you what is overhead in real time by aiming your phone at the sky for a great view of constellations and planets in your view.
Using a star chart
The constellations change with each season. As the northern hemisphere moves into winter, the summer constellations travel to the southern hemisphere, while those in the southern hemisphere appear to us. If you’re going to use a star chart, it’s important to make sure you use the right chart for your current season. The time of night is another factor to consider. Just as the sun rises and sets, so do stars.
From there, get your bearings of north and south. Like a map of the earth, a map of the sky will depict which way is north and which is south. Orientate yourself to the map so you can get an accurate reading. When you look at your star chart, you’ll notice some stars are larger than others. This shows you the brightness of the star. Bright stars in the night sky will be shown as larger dots on the chart. You can use the map to identify patterns in the stars and understand what you’re looking at and where clusters and constellations are located.
Using a star chart is more cumbersome than using technology, but for some people using the chart while they’re camping in the woods so far from technology has a lot of appeal. It will take some time to learn the chart, so you may want to practice with it before you go on your camping trip and try to impress your friends, but it can definitely help you discover the stars on your own rather than using technology to tell you where things are in the sky. Whichever way you choose to view the night sky, you’re in for hours of interest and entertainment!
If you liked this post about constellations, check out our blog for more great tips, tricks, and fun activities to make your RV vacation enjoyable for everyone!