Who doesn’t love stargazing when you’re far enough from Birmingham to really see the stars and planets in all their glory?
If stargazing seems like something you’d like to try, we’ve got some expert tips to help you get started next time we have a clear night.
1. People get started with stargazing in Birmingham in a lot of different ways
Here are a few ways people get started, with input from our resident stargazer Wade Cline and yours truly:
- Scouts introduces a lot of kids to the outdoors, and campouts are the perfect place to begin to notice the night sky.
- Star Trek has encouraged many a person “to boldly go . . . where no man has gone before.”
- Space Camp helps some people learn to reach for the stars.
- Apps send alerts when the International Space Station is going overhead and tell you where constellations and other sky-features are.
No doubt there are a thousand other ways people get into stargazing. Who knows, maybe this little article will start you on your own journey?
2. We’ve got a few planetariums in the area that can help you get started with stargazing
- Samford’s Christenberry Planetarium is a great place to get an intro to all things space. They have Thursday evenings events and sometimes take telescopes to Crestline Village for some stargazing action.
- The INTUITIVE Planetarium at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville brings high tech to the planetarium experience in a whole new way.
- The W.A. Gayle Planetarium at Troy University near Montgomery offers all kinds of STEM education.
- James Wylie Shepherd Observatory three miles away from the University of Montevallo can show you the stars.
3. There are a few apps you can download to begin
- SkyView Lite can show you where stars, contellations, satellites and more are
- The NASA App is free and chock full of great info
- Solar Walk is a good app for kids, with a 3D model of the solar system
- The ISS Spotter and other similar apps let you know when the Space Station will be overhead—very useful on camping trips!
4. Best spots for stargazing near Birmingham
- Oak Mountain State Park is where the Birmingham Astronomical Society holds monthly public star parties.
- Moundville Archaeological Park is about an hour away, just south of Tuscaloosa. You’ll need to camp to see the stars. We saw the International Space Station no less than three times the couple of nights we camped there with Cub Scouts back in May.
- Cheaha State Park is worth the trip on I-20 East to get out of the city and head to the group camping area on the north side of the park.
5. Groups that can help you get started
- The Birmingham Astronomical Society holds monthly meetings at Samford’s Christenberry Planetarium.
- Alabama Astrophotography and Astronomy is a Facebook group for people who are into taking pictures through telescopes and studying celestial beings. And no, I didn’t know astrophotography was a word, much less a thing.