Adventure Challenge: Week 4! Go Stargazing

by Mary on May 1, 2012

April here, from TheFlourishingAbode, with this week’s adventure for our adventure-a-week challenge! This one has been one of my favorites so far: stargazing! It’s a great activity for the whole family to do together. In this post, you’ll find:
- some tips on where/when to go stargazing
- a list of useful items to take with you
- an idea for a delicious but simple twist on S’MORES!
- tips on star photography
- plus a FREE find-the-constellations printable for your kids!

So gather some blankets and my illustrated printable and get ready to go stargazing!

There are a couple things to take into account in preparation for a stargazing adventure, with regards to the place and time:
- You need to choose a place that will have limited light pollution, away from city lights, and with an unobstructed view of the sky. An open field in the country is ideal.
- You need a time when the skies will be clear and not overcast, preferably not at a full moon as it will compete with the brightness of the stars. Check the weather for a night without clouds or a full moon.
- You might want to consult a calendar of meteor showers, as that can definitely add interest to your stargazing outing!

Here are some items you might want to take with you:

1 – Blankets.
 Enough to spread out for everyone so can lay back and have a good view of the sky!

2 – My constellation printable. This can make a fun activity to let the kids do, to find some of the constellations. Or, ok, let’s be honest – I like finding them, too! These constellations are seen in the winter/early spring sky.

3 – Flashlight and pen. To see and to check off the constellation list. :)

4 – Something hot to drink. Especially if you go stargazing during the colder months. Hot cocoa, hot tea, hot coffee … something to keep you warm and cozy!

5 – Snacks! If you’re somewhere where you can have a camp fire, s’mores can be a nice touch to your night outing. So classic, so delicious. :) (If you make a fire, though, you’ll want to douse the fire while you’re actually stargazing so the light won’t interfere with your view.) And here is a simple idea for a twist on s’mores…

… if you’re like me, sometimes its difficult to get a chuck of chocolate to actually melt in your s’mores. So an easy and delicious remedy for that – use Nutella instead! :)

A couple other ideas on items you might want to have with you … if it’s in the months where bugs are a problem, bug spray can be a good idea. And if you have a DSLR camera, shooting stars can be a fun project. I had a fun time taking night sky photographs on our adventure, like this photo I took and which I used as the background of this image:

I am just a beginner at star photography, but here is what I have learned so far:

- Set your camera to BULB, which will allow the shutter to stay open as long as you hold down the shutter release. The longer you leave the shutter open, the more stars’ light will be captured.

- You NEED a tripod. I don’t generally use a tripod for my typical photography – if I really need to steady my camera I hold it against something stable, like a table. But to take pictures of the stars you have to have the shutter open so long that even the tiniest shift will mess up the picture. I set my camera on the flat railing of our porch, facing up toward the sky, but even so pretty much all of the pictures are at least somewhat blurry. A tripod would have been a much better route.

- Light pollution make a big difference, especially if you are including anything else in your photos, such as tree tops. The darker area you can be in, the better.

- Star trails are something I would like to capture in a future photograph. If you point your camera at the north star, which doesn’t “move” much in the night sky, the stars will appear to circle around it in your photo, as the earth spins. For this, though, you will have to have the shutter open for much longer, obviously, and considering my photos very often blurry after only a minute or two being open since I didn’t have a tripod, I knew there was no point to trying close to an hour. So, again, a tripod is needed.

- Experiment! Play around with your settings, different exposure times, and so forth. It’s the best way to learn and stumble across taking some great photographs. :)

And lastly for your stargazing adventure, is the constellation printable I made – I hope you’ll enjoy it!

These are constellations from the winter/early spring sky, along with some facts about each one. This is not a map of the sky, though; in other words, I didn’t draw the constellations in relation to each other, so their relative position/size on the sheet isn’t relevant … you’ll have to do some hunting in the night sky to find them. :)  Just click here to go to my blog post where you down download and print it for free!

This is the fourth post in my Adventure-a-Week Series. If you haven’t seen the previous posts they are here:
Week 1: Pirate Nature Scavenger Hunt
- Week 2: Small Town Explores
- Week 3: Making Smiles, a service project

Until next week, keep adventuring!
-April, from 

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