The Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction—and Other Stuff in the Night Sky

People are often looking for interesting things to do at night. Well, here’s a secret—you just need to go outside and look up in the sky. Trust me, there are some super awesome things to see. Just put down your phone and look up. Here, I’ll go over all the best things to look at.

Should I use Binoculars, a Telescope, or Neither?

First, let’s talk about telescopes and binoculars. I’m going to go ahead and say it—if you don’t have a telescope, don’t worry about that right now. A nice telescope is expensive, and you sort of need to know what you are doing. On top of that, it requires some setup before using it each night.

What about binoculars? Binoculars are great. You can get a pair for not too much, and you might even use them for more than just looking at the night sky. On top of that, they are pretty simple to use. Binoculars can do two things that are useful. First, they produce a magnified image. If you look at the moon with binoculars, you can see much more detail in the craters than with just your naked eye. Here’s a quick moon tip: Don’t look at a full moon. It’s super bright and you really can’t see much detail. If you wait for a nice thin crescent moon, you can see more shadows from the mountains and craters. Trust me.

Photograph: Rhett Allain

The second thing that the binoculars do is to increase light gathering ability. Look at your eyes (use a mirror). Notice the size of your pupils. They aren’t that big, are they? Oh, they do get bigger when it’s dark. But all the light your eyes detect has to come through your eyes. Now look at the front of a pair of binoculars. Notice that the lenses are MUCH bigger. This means that they can collect even more light. With a pair of binoculars, you can see things that are otherwise too faint to detect with the naked eye in the dark sky. This is especially true if you are trying to see comets or nebulae.

Look at the Planets

OK, let’s get to some good stuff to see. Perhaps the best (and simplest) thing to see are the planets. With the naked eye, you can see five of the planets in our solar system (technically you can also see the Earth). The visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The remaining planets (Neptune, Uranus, Pluto) are too far away and too dim to see without a lot of patience and a nice telescope. I mean, Neptune wasn’t even discovered until 1846.

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