By Chiara Evans | Photo by John Michael Simpson
Part of the adventure of stargazing is finding an open space with a clear view of the horizon, says Nick Eakes, an astronomy educator specialist at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. “If you have a neighbor who’s got a big open yard, ask, ‘Can we come and stargaze out here?’” he says. “It’s not impossible to see cool stuff in your backyard.”
To stargaze away from light pollution from homes, streets and businesses, try boat ramps at Jordan Lake like Farrington Point or Poe’s Ridge – the northernmost and southernmost spots on the water, respectively. Beware of nighttime boaters blocking the view, and plan ahead since parking is limited.
During summer months, look for Scorpius the Scorpion, consisting of a bright red star called Antares alongside other stars that form a fish hook. To the left of Scorpius, find a group of stars resembling a teapot to see Sagittarius the Archer.
On exceptionally dark nights, the Milky Way is visible across the sky between those constellations. Both Scorpius and Sagittarius are situated low in the southern sky. Higher in the southern sky, look for the Summer Triangle that connects three bright stars and creates the shape of a big pizza slice. Each star is part of its own constellation – Vega is the brightest star in Lyra the Harp; Altair is the brightest star in Aquila the Eagle; and Deneb is the brightest star in Cygnus the Swan.