Ten Things You Need for the Perfect Night Stargazing
By Victoria Kelly
“Oh my gosh, it’s the North Star! I didn’t actually know the North Star was over there.” As we walked back to Olds after Mock Rock practice, my friend Juliana pointed up at the stars. I turned my gaze upward and smiled, enjoying the familiar yet awe-inspiring skyscape. When the semester gets busy, all too often I forget to look up.
I thought back to my first semester and some of my favorite memories: nights of swing dancing or studying with friends that ended with us lying on our backs and staring up at the sky. Those nights when I took a break from hovering over homework to look up were the nights I felt most free from all the stresses of college. With all its inexpensive yet awe-inspiring potential, (and with the warmer temperatures of spring), we should definitely take the opportunity to give ourselves a break through stargazing. But what do you actually need for the perfect night of staring at the heavens?
Here’s my top ten list:
- The perfect place. Sometimes, as Juliana and I found, you can just randomly look up at night and find an amazing view. If you plan to spend a couple hours at it, though, you’ll want someplace with room to get comfortable in addition to a gorgeous view free of light pollution. Last semester, I spent several nights gazing upward from the shores of Baw Beese and from on top of the hill in Hayden Park, and I highly recommend both of them. Try one of these, or keep your eyes open at night to find a personal favorite spot!
- Several good friends. To be fair, stargazing is something you totally can do by yourself if you need some time alone with your thoughts or to unwind after a lot of socializing. But it is also an amazing experience to share with friends. Whether you know where to find obscure constellations or are enjoying seeing the stars without city lights for the first time, sharing the experience with friends adds to the magic.
- A vehicle. This is optional, but it does make getting yourself and your friends to wherever your favorite stargazing spot is a lot simpler. If you don’t have one, you’ll just be adding a nighttime walk to the experience.
- Comfortable clothes. Plan so that you stay warm and comfortable! Because Michigan can get a little chilly at night, make sure to have a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, warm socks—whatever you need.
- Blankets. Clothes aren’t the only part of staying warm and comfortable. Bring some large, picnic-style blankets to spread out on the ground to lie on, and your most comfortable ones to wrap up in. Really warm and fuzzy blankets or quilts work well.
- A speaker and the perfect soundtrack. Once you know you’ll have your friends and be able to keep warm, it’s time to get the party started! Music can help set the mood. A little “Fly Me to the Moon” from Sinatra can help with your night of fun. Classical and soundtrack pieces like Debussy’s “Clair de lune” or “Dr March’s Daughters” from Little Women lend themselves to more wonder and reflection. Or if you’re in a mood to let loose, break out that party playlist!
- Snacks. You’re probably going to get a little hungry while you’re on your excursion and, besides, what’s your party without food? Grab whatever snacks you and your friends like. You probably won’t catch me and my friends out stargazing without at least some Oreos and potato chips. If it’s a chilly night, bring along the tea or hot cocoa to sip on.
- The Monitor V. This is the radio telescope built in the summer of 2018 that the college has out at Hayden Park. All you need is to know about it, and even that is totally optional. But aren’t you glad to know one more cool random fact about Hillsdale?
- A way to see. For the serious observer, a pair of binoculars can add a little more detail to viewing the stars. For the average college student, though, the ability to keep your eyes open will suffice. You may want to plan your excursion a few days in advance and make sure you’ve gotten enough sleep to stay awake a few extra hours. If you do go on a whim (like I often have), make sure to also dedicate time in your busy schedule to catch up on sleep.
- Time. You’ll probably have to make the time, unless you’re that responsible student who is really good at completing assignments early and efficiently (though if you are, I admire you). Even if you’re not, I encourage you to find a Friday or Saturday night, reach a stopping point, put the work aside, and go appreciate our Michigan skies. Think about the beauty we live under for a night rather than the one you can’t quite yet find in your English paper. You’ll thank me later when your subconscious reaches a breakthrough.
So find a clear night and go spend some time staring at the heavens. You might discover some inspiration, or at least remember how big and magnificent this world is when we look up and appreciate it.
Victoria Kelly, ’24, is a proud country girl from upstate New York. On the rare occasion she is not studying or hanging out with all her favorite Hillsdale people, you can find her debating politics, practicing Tae Kwon Do, or swing dancing, preferably outside under the stars.
Published in May 2021