Looking at Stars, the Sky and Other Astronomical Events
From solar and lunar eclipses to planet sightings or meteor showers, there is always something to look at in the sky. Here are some tips for finding out what astronomical events are coming up and how you can view them safely.
- Space.com’s Skywatching page features articles on upcoming events, including an annual full moon calendar and monthly stargazing maps.
- Astronomy.com “Sky This Week” and “Sky This Month” lists let you know about noteworthy celestial events.
- NASA’s Sky Events Calendar helps you keep track of the sky by calculating your local date and time for sky-related events. You can see moon phases, eclipses, planet positions and meteor showers on a printable monthly or yearly calendar.
Solar eclipses can be dangerous to eyes
One of the most exciting sky events to watch is a solar eclipse. It’s very important to know how to watch an eclipse safely, because looking directly at the sun can seriously damage your eyes. Looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse can damage your retina. It can even cause a type of blindness called solar retinopathy.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society have put together information about how to safely watch a solar eclipse. It is not safe to use ordinary sunglasses —even very dark ones—or homemade filters to look at the sun.
Hours of sky watching could cause eye strain
Looking at the night sky and astronomical events at night can’t blind you like an eclipse can. But staring too long at the sky without a break could cause eye strain, like people experience with computer use or other close work.
To prevent and treat eye strain from looking through a telescope or binoculars:
- Pay attention to how much you’re blinking, and try to blink more often.
- Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes if they feel dry.