Let's Get Celestial: Start Using Sky Maps Tonight for Stargazing

Photo Courtesy: John Crux Photography/Getty Images

Have you ever gazed up at the beauty of the night sky and found yourself awestruck over the scale, the incomprehensible expansiveness of it all? Seeing thousands of glimmering pinpricks twinkling against the inky sky is a breathtaking experience to be sure, but it’s also one that can spark a lifelong interest in astronomy. Whether you’re looking for an appropriately socially distant activity to enjoy during the COVID-19 pandemic or you’re fascinated with the science of space, stargazing is an ideal hobby to take up.

Although stargazing is very much what it sounds like — staring up at the night sky using your eyes, binoculars or a telescope — there are some helpful charts you’ll want to have on hand to learn more as you get started. Called sky maps, these charts plot out the placement of celestial bodies to tell you what exactly you're looking at up in space. Using these helpful guides, you'll be able to identify different stars, planets and constellations in the night sky.

These days, sky maps are available in a variety of different formats. You can get printed versions online for free, buy a planisphere to use all year round or even download apps to your smartphone that can instantly recognize everything in the sky above you. Here’s what you need to know about finding the right sky maps for your needs.