Backyard astronomy offers grand views
With so many options out there for watching movies and television shows, it can be easy to forget about the oldest and most inspiring “screen” of them all: the night sky.
Best of all, this show is still 100 percent free to enjoy.
Tonight will see the return of the supermoon, a term for when the moon is full at its closest point to Earth. Although its glare will wash out other celestial objects in the sky, the moon can be a stunning sight when viewed through binoculars or a small telescope.
Unfortunately moonlight will likely obscure some of the annual Perseid meteor shower when it reaches its peak over the next couple nights, but shooting stars will continue through the middle of the month for backyard viewing.
A good starting point for beginning astronomers is the Summer Triangle, an informal grouping of the stars Vega, Deneb and Altair. The stars are bright, making them easy to spot from just about any location all month long.
When preparing for an evening of stargazing in the Midwest, special consideration should be taken to avoid mosquitos. And although the days are often humid, packing a few blankets can make the night more enjoyable as temperatures drop.
For best results, leave phones and other bright electronics inside to allow eyes to acclimate to the darkness. Besides, nothing on a small screen will compare to the universe above.
Free monthly sky charts with the location of constellations and planets are available at www.skymaps.com/downloads.html.
Free to enjoy … stargazing
Where: Anywhere with a view of the night sky
When: Spectacular shows run dusk to dawn
Splurge: An inexpensive pair of binoculars can bring a new perspective to the moon or seemingly empty patches of sky; mosquito repellent will help keep the night going longer and more enjoyable.