Group of campers under starry night sky

A Night Under the Stars

Why worry about finding a five-star hotel when camping offers an estimated 300 billion stars in just the Milky Way alone? These tips will help prepare stargazers of all ages for a dazzling night under the stars.

Starry Night Facts Twinkling stars icon

Starry night sky with trees in the foreground

Closest Star

The closest observable star to Earth is the Sun. It's about 93 million miles away and 865,000 miles in diameter (as wide as 109 Earths placed side by side). About 1 million Earths would fit inside the Sun!

Twinkling stars in night sky

Twinkling Stars

Twinkling stars are called "astronomical scintillation." As starlight travels through Earth's atmosphere, it is bent by turbulence. Some light reaches us directly, other light is slightly bent. This is what looks like twinkling to the human eye.

Human face partially in shadow with light shining on one eye

Adjusting Eyes

When you step outside from a bright room, it might take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Give it time and then get ready for a beautiful star show!

Swirls of blowing sand against dark background

Stars vs. Sand

There are multiple stars for every grain of sand on Earth. A rough estimate says there are 5 to 10 times more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the world's beaches.

Reddish swirling matter with starry background

Not Red Hot

Cool stars in the sky are red, while the hottest stars are blue. Seems counterintuitive; but blue light (shorter wavelengths) is more energetic than red (longer wavelengths) thus hotter. There are exceptions.

Star Games

Star Surfing

Star surfers have 15 seconds to look up and choose a star and keep their eye on it. Timekeeper says "begin," and star surfers spin in a circle with their eyes on their star. After 30 seconds, the timekeeper says "surf," and everyone jumps into a surfing position, bringing their gaze back to normal.

Design a Constellation

Bring along black paper construction paper and stickers and let kids design or replicate constellations that they see in the night sky. They can also come up with their own constellation ideas as well!

Starry Night Craft

Look back over the last 4,000 years of picturing the stars, including van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” one of the most famous artistic depictions of the night sky. Bring black construction paper and pastels to make an art project out of it!

Person using camera and tripod to photograph Northern lights

Photographing the Night Sky

It can be difficult to capture the awe of the night sky with photos, but a few tips will make it easier, and may even help capture surprising images of nighttime wildlife, too. Remember to practice—take a lot of photos and see what works and what doesn't. Review, and repeat!

Use a Tripod.

Night photos have very little light available, and each photo takes longer to process. This means every small shake can end up blurring your photograph. A tripod, table, log, or other solid surface will help.

Get Away from Light Pollution.

It's estimated that getting at least 60 miles from a city helps reduce light pollution. If you're taking photos of stars, consider whether light from the moon will interfere.

Get to Know Your Equipment.

You don't always need the fanciest equipment, but it's very helpful to learn how it works. Test automatic settings or learn how to manually adjust them.

Test Your Settings.

Learn the recommended settings for what you're trying to photograph, and then test them. Sometimes a small adjustment to your settings can make a huge difference in your photos.

Adapted from "Gazer Guide: Prepare for Your Night Under the Stars" by Dani Tinker

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