Keep warm, stay watching: Winter star gazing is fun, but you have to know how

Living in the North has many advantages. We have crystal clear skies, no air pollution and many hours of darkness in the winter season. This adds up to excellent opportunities for viewing and taking pictures of the Northern Lights.

Another great advantage of living in the North is the extremely dry air. In humid parts of the world, there is so much moisture between you and the stars, it would be like bird watching from the bottom of a swimming pool. You can really tell the difference if you partake in photography through a telescope or camera.

However, the North also presents some challenges to the hobby of amateur astronomy — bitterly cold winters, dust and total daylight in the summer — but they can be overcome by proper clothing and some helpful tips … Yukon Style.

Having been an amateur astronomer in the Yukon over the past 15 years, I have learned many do’s and don’ts when it comes to the challenging the climate of this great part of the country.

With a little care, you will find winter star gazing in the Yukon is an awesome and breathtaking experience.There is an abundance of deep sky celestial treasures — Pleiades Star Cluster, the Orion Nebula and, of course, the Big Dipper – and none would be enjoyable if you are freezing.

The first lesson to learn about Northern astronomy is how to be comfortable and warm in the sub zero weather. Realize that astronomy is a hobby and not a sport … there is very, very limited activity and the only things that will keep you warm are winter clothes and coffee or hot chocolate.

Consider these for clothing:


This, worn inside the parka hood, is the ultimate protection from the cold.

Hat or Hood

This is a personal choice. Some people find the hood too restrictive for viewing.

Down-Filled Parka

Helps keep the upper body warm and they are lighter in weight. Tabs on the cuffs will help keep warm air from escaping.

Velcro Sealed Pockets

Makes it easier to access eyepieces, flashlights and other gear you need.

Appropriate Gloves:

Remember you need flexibility to adjust the focus and to grip small knobs and change eyepieces.

Insulated Pants or Coveralls

This allows flexibility as well as keeping you warm while standing for long periods of time.

Insulated Winter Boots

I have found that down booties inside the insulated deep winter boots are worth their weight in gold.

Resource Centre

Listed below are my favourite, usable working tools in astronomy. With these particular websites, you can keep yourself up to date with current and upcoming events in the night sky. On most of them you can also type in your latitude and longitude, which will let you print star charts. With these simple tools in hand, the night sky unfolds before you.

Celestial Highlights For February

Feb. 15-The Pleiades star cluster and moon will pair up for an awesome duo. Also the

1st quarter moon debuts at 7:16 pm.

Feb. 19 – Saturn shines brightly below the moon late this evening.

Feb. 23 – Full moon 11:54 pm. Also called the snow moon.

Feb. 26 – In the late evening hours the moon and Jupiter will rise together in the east.

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