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Embarking on the journey of astronomy can be as thrilling as it is daunting. The night sky, with its vastness and complexity, often leaves beginners wondering where to start. Fortunately, the path to becoming an amateur astronomer is simpler than it seems, and we at AstroTours.org are here to guide you.


Stargazing is a great thing to do with the whole family!

1. Join an Astronomy Program

The best way to dive into astronomy is by immersing yourself in it. AstroTours.org offers beginner-friendly astronomy programs that introduce you to the basics of the night sky and how to use a telescope. Our programs are designed to make learning both fun and informative. Book your spot at AstroTours.org/book and start your astronomical adventure!


picking a good telescope

2. Start with the Right Equipment

a. Choosing a Telescope: For backyard stargazing, a Dobsonian telescope is an excellent choice due to its user-friendly design and effectiveness. For those who travel or camp, a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope offers a more portable option. Remember, anything smaller than 4 inches is better suited for lunar observations only; for deeper space viewing, larger is better.

b. Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars can be a fantastic starting point. They are less expensive than telescopes and surprisingly versatile for stargazing. Look for specifications like 15x60 or 20x40 - the first number is the magnification, and the second is the aperture (the larger the second number, the better, but also heavier).

3. Utilize Stellar Apps and Resources

There's a universe of free star chart apps that can enhance your stargazing experience. Some recommended apps include:

  • Aurora Alerts: Great for those in northern regions to catch the Northern Lights.

  • Heaven's Above: Ideal for tracking satellites.

  • Night Sky and Sky Safari: Excellent for deeper sky objects.

Combine the free versions of Sky Safari and Celestron Sky Portal for a comprehensive experience.


Also, consider traditional guidebooks and star wheels for offline learning. They are invaluable tools that do not rely on battery life or cell service and help preserve your night vision.


4. Protect Your Night Vision

Preserving night vision is critical in astronomy. All guests at our AstroTours.org programs receive red lights, which are less disruptive to night vision. This small tool can significantly enhance your viewing experience.


telescopes set up for stargazing in the Colorado mountains

5. Practical Tips for the Amateur Astronomer

  • Find a Dark Spot: Light pollution is a major hindrance. Seek out darker locations for the best views.

  • Patience is Key: Allow your eyes to adjust to the dark for about 20-30 minutes.

  • Join a Community: Connect with local astronomy clubs or online forums for advice and shared experiences.


Astronomy is a journey that starts with a single step under the night sky. With the right tools, resources, and guidance, anyone can unlock the mysteries of the cosmos. Remember, every expert was once a beginner. Start your adventure with AstroTours.org and let the stars be your guide.

Embark on Your Astronomical Adventure at AstroTours.org

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Did you miss the aurora this past weekend? No worries! Here's your guide to catching the Northern Lights tonight and planning your aurora adventures for the rest of the year. With us currently at solar maximum, the aurora borealis will be brighter and more active, offering a spectacular display that won't be this consistently bright again for another 11 years!


Aurora Borealis in Aztec New Mexico

how to read SpaceWeatherLive.com

Step 1: Check Aurora Activity First things first, you need to know when the aurora is active. I highly recommend using Space Weather Live for up-to-date aurora activity information. This website provides real-time updates on solar wind conditions and auroral forecasts.




what kp values mean

Step 2: Understand the KP Index The KP index is a scale from 0 to 9 that measures geomagnetic activity. Higher values indicate a higher likelihood of seeing the aurora. Check the KP value listed on Space Weather Live and use this map to see where the aurora will be visible based on the KP index. For example, a KP value of 5 or higher means there's a good chance of seeing the aurora further south than usual.


find a place clear of clouds

Step 3: Check the Weather Clear skies are essential for aurora viewing. Use the National Weather Service's Graphical Forecast to find areas with no clouds. Simply select the "Sky Cover" element and look for areas with minimal cloud cover.



how to find a place without light pollution

Step 4: Plan Your Viewing Location To maximize your chances of seeing the aurora, head to a location with minimal light pollution. Dark skies away from city lights are ideal. Websites like LightPollitionMap.info can help you find dark sky locations near you.


Step 5: Timing and Patience Auroras are most commonly visible during the hours around midnight, but they can appear anytime it's dark. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Dress warmly, bring some hot cocoa, and maybe even a reclining chair for comfort.


Bonus Tips: Photography and Apps

  • Photography: If you want to capture the aurora, use a camera with manual settings. Set a high ISO (800-3200), a wide aperture (f/2.8 or lower), and a long exposure time (15-30 seconds). Use a tripod to keep your camera steady.

  • Apps: There are several apps available that can help you track aurora activity, such as My Aurora Forecast, Aurora Alerts, and SpaceWeatherLive.


Solar Maximum: Why Now is the Best Time We are currently at the peak of the solar cycle, known as solar maximum. This period occurs roughly every 11 years and results in increased solar activity, making the auroras more frequent and vibrant. This is the best time to witness the Northern Lights, so don't miss out on this celestial extravaganza!

Remember, the aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon, and while these steps can increase your chances of seeing it, nature can be unpredictable. Enjoy the adventure, and happy aurora chasing!

Clear skies,

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Get ready for an unforgettable summer of stargazing adventure as AstroTours.org teams up with Gravity Haus in Vail, Breckenridge, Steamboat, and Winter Park! Each location offers a unique 2-hour guided astronomy tour, perfect for anyone eager to explore the cosmos.


Stargazing in Steamboat Colorado

Steamboat Springs: A Starry Steamboat Night

Join us at Gravity Haus Steamboat for a mesmerizing journey across the universe. Our expert astronomer will guide you through constellations, planets, and distant galaxies. No need to hike; just bring your curiosity and warm clothes. This enchanting evening is ideal for all ages, featuring powerful telescopes and a backdrop of Steamboat's natural beauty. Book your Steamboat tour here.



Stargazing Breckenridge

Breckenridge: Cosmic Wonders at Breck

Experience the night sky like never before in the heart of Breckenridge. Our tour promises a blend of education and awe, with no hiking required. Wrap up warmly and join us for a night under the stars, where the universe unfolds before your eyes through our large telescopes. Secure your spot for the Breckenridge Astronomy Tour.


Stargazing Winter Park

Winter Park: Stars at Winter Park

Set against the serene backdrop of Gravity Haus Winter Park, our tour welcomes stargazers of all ages. From sunset to the stars, our professional astronomer leads a cosmic exploration that's both accessible and engaging. The ideal way to spend an evening, discovering the magic of the night sky. Join us in Winter Park by booking here.





Stargazing Vail

Vail: Night Skies Over Vail

The majestic landscape of Vail provides the perfect setting for our stargazing adventure. With expert guidance and big telescopes, you'll explore the celestial wonders from the comfort of Gravity Haus Vail's grounds. An accessible and insightful experience awaits all who attend. Reserve your Vail Astronomy Tour now.


Each location offers a unique setting to observe the night sky's awe-inspiring beauty, complemented by professional guidance to enhance your understanding and appreciation of the cosmos. Remember, while our tours provide an enhanced viewing experience with professional equipment and guidance, the natural beauty of a starry night is accessible to everyone. Whether you join us for a tour or set out on your own, the skies this summer are a gateway to the wonders of the universe.


Prepare for cool evenings as temperatures can drop after sunset. Our tours include all necessary equipment, cozy seating, and optional refreshments. Please note that all tours are weather-dependent, and we strive to provide the best experience, adjusting or canceling only when necessary for safety and visibility.


Don't miss this unique opportunity to connect with the cosmos—book your AstroTours.org experience today and make this summer a stellar one!


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