Throughout history, space has captivated humans. These days, the glow of phone screens tends to appeal more than the twinkling night sky. Ask yourself: when was the last time you looked up at the stars? Really looked?
To be fair, light pollution and crammed cityscapes have made stargazing difficult — if not impossible — for many of us. Since popping off to a stargazing tour isn’t always an option, here’s a round up of places to see the night sky from home. And the views can be much better than from your backyard.
So, buckle up earthlings, this outta-this-world venture is about to get real. Here are 6 ways to stargaze from home.
1. View space from the Hubble telescope
After 30 years, the Hubble telescope is still silently floating through our dark and silent universe. Its images and videos are regularly uploaded on NASA’s website, and there is a dizzying amount to explore.
Firstly, give Hubble a follow on Instagram to fill your feed with incredible snaps of our galaxy. Some of Hubble’s top shots of all time can be found here. Its live shot videos are truly wondrous, and nearly all of them are prefaced with an introduction of what you are viewing.
For a little unique something else, check out what the Hubble saw on your birthday here.
2. Explore world class space photography
It’s easy to go about day-to-day life forgetting that an awe-inspiring universe lies above us. Reignite your galactic appreciation with daily snaps of our colorful galaxy.
Instagram is teeming with remarkably clear photos of exploding stars, planets, moons, and more. Search #spacephotography to find fresh pics and accounts. To get youy started:
- NASA and Hubble
- Connor Matherne (deep space photographer)
- Sean Parker (astrophotographer & scientist)
- Leonardo Orazi (deep space photographer)
- Spaces (curator account)
- NightSky (curator account)
- Astronomy Picture of the Day (curator account)
3. Hop aboard the International Space Station
To experience a taste of space on earth, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center or Houston Space Center offers an immersive experience. Learn about space travel, touch a moon rock, see real rockets, and meet an astronaut up close. Until you’re able to get there, there are some incredible videos you can watch from home instead.
The International Space Station (ISS) is constantly streaming live videos, as well as recording epic ones too. Space walks, window views, and the world’s first 8K video in space are just some of what the ISS has to offer.
This past year NASA’s feeds featured Jessica Meir, a female astronaut in space who completed 205 days in orbit. She provided a video tour of the inside of ISS (fascinating!), and conducted a live TV interview with Stephen Colbert during her time in orbit. Her safe landing to earth was broadcasted live just this past month.
4. Gaze through the world’s best telescopes
High altitude, and the absence of both light and air pollution, are the three key ingredients for high-grade stargazing. The world’s best telescopes are located in remote locations, but their spectacular images can be viewed publicly from anywhere.
- Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Live cam is currently closed but explore their video and image archives.
- Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) telescope has live webcams, image of the month, and a stunning photos from atop its Hawaiian mountaintop location
- Slooh is a website that has webcams of 10 different telescopes. It is free to sign up and you can even sign up to control a telescope!
The world’s larger-scale telescope sites aren’t open to the public, but an abundance of smaller observatories and planetariums are. The San Pedro de Atacama, home to the world’s darkest night sky, is a must-see stargazing experience. A guided visit to the stargazing center includes a detailed history and tour of the observatory, with the opportunity to look through 12 telescopes directed at galaxies and stars. They also provide hot chocolate and fuzzy blankets to make for a cozy experience in the chilly desert temperatures.
In neighboring Bolivia are the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, featuring otherworldly reflective landscapes that make for an incredible stargazing location. Other stargazing tours can be found in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, the Canary Islands, and Egypt; next time you’re on a trip, why not check to see what’s available?
5. Follow NASA from earth
NASA’s presence across social media – namely Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube – is an incredible way to view not just life aboard the ISS but outer space itself. Well worth a look is NASA’s Youtube channel, which features amazing 4k vids from space. Their website has a dizzying array of activities, including VR explorations, exoplanet “expeditions”, image of the day, and more.
6. Scout for aurora via webcam
While not technically a space-based sight, the aurora borealis, also known as the northern and southern lights, are a jaw-dropping solar phenomenon. The aurora are difficult to catch at best, so hunting via webcam is a more surefire way to catch them.
A drive through Yukon and Alaska to aurora hunt are two of the best driving routes out there. As with all night sky viewing, remote and dark locations offer the best odds. When travel resumes, you can refer to the guides on Thrifty Nomads for the best places to catch the northern and southern lights. Inspiration satiated, begin shortlisting aurora tours around the world.
Starstruck? You should be! These homebound means of space exploration have hopefully reinvigorated your love of the stars. There is an entire other “world” out there. Let’s not forget it!
Jen is the co-founder of Thrifty Nomads, a budget travel blog inspiring people to see more of the world, for less. In 2013 she decided to leave her nursing career to travel the world and started her blog to show others exactly how to do it too.