Astro Bob’s Guide to Stargazing

Plus tips on night sky photography

Bob King, a.k.a. Astro Bob, has been writing an astronomy column for the Duluth News Tribune for decades. He’s authored several books about stargazing, including Night Sky With the Naked Eye, and produces a calendar of astronomical events for Voyageurs National Park.

Such is life for a hobbyist astronomer in Minnesota, home to two internationally recognized dark sky sanctuaries: the aforementioned Voyageurs and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. “You just look up and go, ‘Wowwww,’” marvels King. “Voyageurs is top-notch: It gives you the impression that the stars are uncountable.”

In honor of International Dark Sky Week, our own Andrew Parks asked Astro Bob to share 10 stellar tips for stargazing under Minnesota’s dark skies. What follows are a few crumbs of wisdom; you can read the full article over at Explore Minnesota.

🌟 “The brightest stars in the sky are in the wintertime, but contrary to popular belief, that’s not when the darkest skies of the year are. They’re during the summer and fall because of light pollution. Today’s LED technology is very bright; the lights reflect off the ground and back up into the sky. And when the ground is covered in snow, the difference is enormous.”

🌟 “There are half a dozen meteor showers a year that have specific dates. The best one in 2022 is going to be the Geminids. That occurs in the middle of December and it’s a nice, rich shower. You might have to wait for the show to start, so download the free Star Chart app on your phone to learn about the constellations and stars and planets while you’re waiting.”

🌟 “Conjunctions are when you look across the solar system and see, let’s say, Mars in the foreground. And it happens to be in the same line of sight as Jupiter. From our perspective, it looks like two objects right next to each other, which is striking. We have a great conjunction coming up on April 30. About an hour before sunrise, low in the southeastern sky, Venus and Jupiter will be super close. Then on June 24, all of the planets will be in a long arc at dawn — Mercury near the horizon, then Venus, Mars, Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune…. That doesn’t happen too often!”