A Guide to Where to Observe from for beginning Amature Astronomers

There are two main problems that come up in observing the heavens. One is the atmosphere the other is light pollution. The atmosphere problem is one that you can't fix. You can lessen the problem by going to a site that is at a higher elevation so there is less atmosphere and/or choosing a time when the atmosphere is settled. The other problem in observing the night sky is light pollution. Light pollution is sky glow caused by various sources of lights that cause the night sky to brighten. Light pollution can also be a close light source that causes it to be difficult for you to dark adapt you eyes. In some areas light pollution is so bad you can see only a few of the very brightest stars. No matter what town or city you live in there will be some light pollution.

The obvious answer to this is to drive out of the city until the sky is dark (at least dark enough to see the Milky Way). The other solution (not as good) is to get a light pollution filter. These filters come in various types and offer various amount of effectiveness. One kind is the called the broadband filter and is effective in blocking sky glow caused by Mercury and Sodium Vapor lamps but does little with regular white light. There are also narrow band filters by many various names that block far more of the light by only passing a narrow band of the spectrum which are good for nebula. These filters usually run from around $65.00 to $80.00 for broadband to $75.00 to $100.00 for a narrow band, OIII, and Hydrogen Alpha.

For light pollution from your neighbors porch or from a street lamp, try to place yourself out of the glare. If that is impossable use a large cloth or your jacket as a hood while your are viewing. If someone shines a flashlight in your eyes don't go with your first impulses, but instead gently inform that person on what that does to night vision and request that they stop.

So in conclusion the best places to view the stars is out in the country as far away from artifical light as is convenient and as high in the mountians (hills) as you can. Remember if getting to that prime site is to inconvenient you probably won't go very often. So find an ok place that is convenient.

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