Once you decide to become a Stargazer, you will recognize, gazing at the stars involves a lot more than just a chair and a patch of clear sky. Don't want to discourage you from enjoying the view from your chair -- what I want to talk about are the steps to help you get better views, once you decide to get out of that chair and look at the starry sky through binoculars or photograph the wide starry sky with your camera or gaze at the nebulas through a telescope.

You want to shoot the night sky, you have to have an idea WHERE you want to do that. Your own, local BACKYARD isn't such a bad place to start, because you can use it often, practice and thereby gain experience. And if anything goes wrong, your backyard is the easiest place to fix any mistakes and try, try again.

Talk to your friends on meetup, flickr & astronomy clubs -- they will have suggestions within a 60...90 minutes radius from your home. Some locations may be just patches along the side of a road, others even have campgrounds & infra-structure (restrooms, AC-power). Getting just couple of miles away from a busy town can make a noticable difference, once you find a place with no artificial lights nearby. My personal threshold depends on the target but 1½ hours is the outer limit for a "day"-trip.
As I can get some sleep inside my "astro"-van, I can reach more distant locations and also relax before or after a shoot.

Based upon suggestions, your own research or your travel itinerary, go and scout paper- or electronic-maps to find places away from cities. Preferably at high altitudes.

For all locations, I suggest some additional amount of scouting -- in person visits are the best but not always feasible due to traveling constraints.
  • Use Google EARTH to view the site and also pay attention to surrounding hills. Using the SATELLITE VIEW check for possible obstructions / trees
    3D GROUND VIEW won't show trees but it will help you, to better visualize the landscape and even simulate sunlight & shadow.
    STREETVIEW is of limited use unless you plan to setup your telescope on the side of a road -- HOWEVER it will give you a good impression of the surrounding vegetation and a more natural look of the site
  • EXPORT BOOKMARKS from your GPS and save them into a KML-file -- and later import those into your planning & mapping tools
  • Use TPE, especially if you want sun or moon alignments, again don't overlook any hills that may block the view
  • A location along a hill's slope or in a valley limit's the view of the horizon but at the same time, said hill can be very useful in blocking light pollution.
  • use MAPS or EARTH to save the driving directions as TXT and SCREEN- SHOTS. No guarantee there's a wireless network nearby
  • Stellarium will be able to simulate the sky for any location & time
  • GOOGLE EARTH is useful to simulate the sun's position & shadows cast by surrounding mountains. It lacks a similar simulation for the moon.
  • this article will be helpful : /stargazer95050/23964727
  • you can use EARTH to save locations to a KML-file and ASTROPLANNER can import these locations ==> easy & accurate & quick
  • TPE & EARTH won't work in remote locations without iNET access ==> SAVE SCREENSHOTS to whatever phone or laptop you bring along.
  • You can record the height of the surrounding obstructions using "rule of thumb" or you can improve on it with an Army compas or other angle gauge and measure the "height" (the angle or "altitude") of the obstructions relative to the horizon.
  • While scouting, also record visible landmarks, preferably due north. Record (azimuth / compas) angle. That will help your polar alignment during daylight -- e.g. that peak is @ 234° north-east
  • Knowledge of location & obstruction also helps ASTROPLANNER to paint a map of observable targets for each location (that has been imported via KML).
    If you visit a location frequently, you can draw the shape of these obstructions and ASTROPLANNER will mask objects
  • As you browse, you may find WEBCAMS in the vicinity ==> very helpful to judge current weather conditions. Some cameras even are sensitive enough for night observations.
  • You want to keep an eye on the weather conditions at your preferred targets. www.calsky.com is a powerful tool but supports "only" one location.

This preparation is solely about the (possible) observation locations. Over time, you can watch the FORECAST & ACTUAL WEATHER and thereby become a local meteorologist. No kidding, IMO Stargazers also have to be part-time weather- (wo)men or else they will waste too much time when conditions are not right

For some events, the decision of the WHEN & WHERE is a lot more confined in time and location. The recommendations I made still apply to these
  • a total solar eclipse is visible only from a narrow path
  • you want a transit of the ISS in front of the sun or moon, you have an even narrower corridor and window of opportunity
  • align a celestial object with a terrestrial landmark

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