Choosing an Observing Site for Urban Stargazing

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The night skies, seen by most urban dwellers, is empty when compared to the sky seen by someone in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania because of the light pollution in urban areas. Because of this light, it is more difficult choosing an observing site for urban stargazing, though it’s not impossible. Here’s how to view the wonders of the night sky in urban areas.

*Avoiding Light Pollution

There are two types of light pollution, known as sky glow and line-of-sight. The dome of light seen over urban areas as you approach them is the sky glow and there is little you can do about this without investing in equipment designed to deal with it. Line-of-sight is an actual light source such as the light from a store, home, car or sign. This source of light you can do something about by choosing the site carefully.

*Choose A Moonless Night

Choose a moonless night and plan to be up until the wee hours of the morning. Between 1 and 4 AM are the perfect hours for stargazing. There are fewer home, municipal and business lights on during these hours and this means less sky glow and line-of-sight lighting to hinder your view.


You can try stargazing from a high-rise rooftop if you can get permission but be forewarned that rooftops absorb heat from the sun all day and then release it at night as the temperatures drop. This heat release can cause a distortion of whatever you are viewing. This holds true for winter as well as for summer.

*High-Rise Apartment Windows

Stargazing from your apartment window may get you above most line-of-sight lights and allow you to keep a large telescope set up for convenient use but you will be limited to only part of the sky. However, you will be able to see details from this vantage point that no other urban setting can offer.

*Parks And Stadiums

Urban areas with large parks or stadiums may have unlighted areas that offer the perfect site for stargazing if you can gain access. Be sure you are familiar with the area and take a flashlight for safety purposes. Know any park area well and perhaps check with the local police department on how safe the area is at night. Going in a group might be a good idea.

Starting or joining a Stargazing Club might help you to gain access to a stadium or playing field for football, baseball, soccer or other sports. Check with high schools and especially local colleges where you may find a stargazing club already formed.

*High Ground Or Fields

If you live in a mountainous area, such as North Georgia then do some daytime reconnaissance to find a safe spot on a hill. This will have you elevated above most line-of-sight light as well as tall buildings.

The outer most areas of urban areas have far less light pollution than say downtown and you may be able to find a field or wildlife preserve with few trees to block your view of the night sky. Always ask for permission before accessing Federal, State or private property.

*Beaches And Deserts

Many large urban areas, such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are merely minutes from a desert or beach. Both of these are perfect for stargazing on a clear, moonless night. Facing away from the city will give you an even better view of the night skies.

A little planning and exploring of the urban area where you live can help in choosing an observing site for the urban stargazing you wish to do. A smaller, lightweight telescope is easier to transport and set up when you do find the perfect spot for viewing the wonders of the heavens at night.

More about this author: Pamela Kay

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