It's All in the Stars: Your New Outdoor Hobby
With summer winding down to a close, many of us are rushing to finish our summer “bucket-list.”
Whether we’re trying to get one last beach trip in or we’re visiting mom for one more home-cooked meal, the sad truth is time is short! Don’t worry though, there are plenty of things you can do to enjoy the end of summer here in Auburn. Specifically, stargazing is easy and free, and it's perfect for late summer nights.
Stargazing sounds like such a simple thing to do. You might say, “Oh, just looking up at the sky, how much fun can that be?” Yeah, it may sound a little lackluster when you compare it to weekends at the beach or cross-country road trips. But there is some beauty in the simplicity.
Let’s think about the positives of stargazing. First, it’s easy. From observing from lawn chairs on your back porch to heading out to the open plains around Auburn, it can be done from practically anywhere. Secondly, it is as free as you want it to be. For those of us balling on a budget, this might just be one of the best ways to wrap up a day at the pool. Third and finally, it’s something new! Consistently following the same routine every day is boring, so make a change.
As an added bonus, stargazing can be an excellent opportunity for a date. As cheesy as it sounds, getting away from the city and spending some alone time with a significant other under the stars can be seriously romantic.
These upcoming weeks are perfect for stargazing since there are plenty of lunar events to observe. On the night of Aug. 11 and the morning of Aug. 12, the Perseids meteor shower will be peaking. At its peak, the shower can produce up to 200 meteors per hour, and the new moon will definitely help visibility.
Now if you are going to go out and do some stargazing, you might as well do it right! So, if you don’t know much about stargazing, then you probably want to get a star guide. My personal favorite is the Sky Guide app for iPhones. It uses your camera to tell you which constellations, planets, satellites and rockets are visible from your location. These types of programs make the viewing much more enjoyable and can teach you a lot.
Another tip is to get away from Auburn's light pollution. Now, I love our new jumbotron at Jordan-Hare (although more seating room would be nice), but the amount of light it produces makes stargazing virtually impossible within the city. For the best stargazing experience, you should really leave the city. The darker your surroundings, the better you'll be able to see the stars. Finally, come prepared. If you are planning to bring dinner with you, make sure you can clean up after yourself. If you want to avoid itching for the next week, bring bug spray. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend going out without it, especially since it is primetime for mosquitos.
Consider borrowing a telescope, if you can, or think about buying a cheap one (thrift stores often offer pretty great deals on them). Viewing the planets and stars through a telescope is fun, and it’ll definitely improve your stargazing experience.
Yeah, we may still want to visit the beach one more time, but that doesn’t mean we have to stress in order to enjoy the last bit of summer. So next time you are sitting around bored, try thinking outside the box. Instead of doing the same old thing, try something new — it could be as simple as walking out to the front yard with a blanket, a stocked cooler, some friends, and just laying down and looking up.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Henry G.