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Moab UT (at City Hall)
38O34’ N Latitude
109O33’ W Longitude
4048 ft - 1234 m

Stargazing for Beginners
Adapted from an article by Kat Troche

Millions were able to experience the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, inspiring folks to become amateur astronomers – hooray! Whether you’ve decided to join an astronomy club or want to know more when you look up, here are some tips!

1. The Bortle Scale
Find a site with dark skies, and the Bortle scale will help. But, what is it? The Bortle scale rates your night sky’s darkness from 1-9. For example, New York City would be a Bortle 9, whereas Arches National Park is a Bortle 2. Clouds will impact conditions too, so plan ahead. Find Bortle ratings online:

2. No Equipment? No Problem!
Your eyes alone can see plenty, so get familiar with the night sky. Options include star maps in books, a planisphere, interactive sky maps (such as Stellarium Web), and astronomy apps that work with the GPS of your smartphone. All are great for learning the constellations.

3. Keep track of Moon phases.
Interactive sky maps and apps will also let you know when planets and our Moon are out! If you are trying to look for bright deep sky objects, like the Andromeda Galaxy or the Perseus Double Cluster, avoid the Moon. It’s bright! And, if the Moon is out, check out this Skywatcher’s Guide to the Moon:

4. Put That Light On Red
Our eyes take approximately 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. To stay adapted, avoid bright white lights, like headlights or your smartphone. Use red lights instead to allow your pupils to stay dilated for longer. Many headlamps and smartphones come with options for red light, but if yours don’t, use red cellophane.

The Bortle scale helps amateur astronomers and stargazers to know how much light pollution is in the sky. Credit: International Dark Sky Association

A full view of the northern hemisphere night sky in mid-May. Credit: Stellarium Web.


May 7 — New Moon at 9:21 pm
May 15 — First Quarter at 5:48 am
May 23 — Full Moon at 7:53 am
May 30 — Third Quarter at 11:12 am

Moab Dark Skies mission is to promote the appreciation and conservation of Moab’s valuable and rare dark skies. Moab Dark Skies was established by the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks in conjunction with the National Park Service and Utah State Parks Division of Natural Resources

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