Jump to content


Town/ city Observing tips

Recommended Posts

Hi people.


i am recently new to Astronomy. i have purchased myself a pair of Saxon 30x80WP Binos about 6 months ago ( little bit of background)

at the time i was on a farm in a rural area so dark skies were at my beck and call whenever conditions were right however i now have unfortunately had to move to the city for work so i've had to give up my dark skies and i was wondering how you guys that live in cities manage to observe with all the light pollution of street light and cars going by ect ect.

Any help/ advice will be much appreciated





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Mattiman,

When you are in more light polluted areas, you need to stick to the objects which are brighter (sorry if that was blindingly obvious ;))

That means the Moon, planets, double stars and then things like globular clusters and planetary nebulae.

To observe these well really needs a telescope as you need higher magnification to see them properly, have you considered purchasing one?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

wow thanks for the advice Stu

will look at doing this in future.

to answer your question, no i haven't looked at purchasing one as i don't really have the room  to store one unfortunately

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(1) Do you have your own transport? Putting a pair of binos in a car and driving to a dark site requires a lot less planning than a full telescope set-up.

(2) The effect of streetlights can be very dependant on how directly you are in line-of sight. My back garden (no streetlights) is a lot darker than my front garden (which apparently requires no fewer than 7 streetlights to keep it safe!)

(3) For solutions specific to you, try here.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose the obvious thing is to find an observing area that's got the least direct light as possible. However, much of the problem from light pollution is caused by light hitting the eye from your surroundings and rodopsin (visual purple), which is the chemical released to enhance the eyes sensitivity in the dark, is not released. Using a blackout blanket over your head and eyepiece can greatly increase your sensitivity to nebulous objects. You'll have to give yourself breathing room or you'll mist up your eyepieces, and you'll have to be patient, studying an object for 20 minutes or more to get the most out of the target object, but its worth the effort. Transparent  nights are best for observing the deep sky!

Another option would be to build a small observatory that has its inner walls and floor blacked out so as to absorb much of the light that may enter. Every little helps! 


2016-07-07 13.52.59.jpg

2016-04-13 18.25.00.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Don't get discouraged.  There is still a lot you can see in cities.    Here is link to the Astro League Urban Observing Program.   https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/urban/urban.html  

There are links there for tips for observing in light polluted areas and also observing lists of deep sky objects, double and variable stars visible in urban environments you can download.  

There are also links there for the binocular Messier, double, and variable star programs.  You can download these also.  Between the urban lists and binocular lists, there is enough to see to keep busy for a long time.

I hope this helps.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you get to a better spot within 30 mins drive? If yes, I find it a better investment to spend one hour on a return trip to a mag 20.0 sky then to sit in s 18.0 neighbourhood. Exceptions are the planets and the Moon, but even they benefit from a non-urban setting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7 July 2016 at 09:38, Mattiman said:


i was wondering how you guys that live in cities manage to observe with all the light pollution of street light and cars going by ect ect


I don't. I pack my scope into the motor and go somewhere dark.

I've done the city observing lark, but am no longer happy sitting in city murk and horrendous LP struggling to see diddly. 

For me kicking back under a pristine dark sky and looking up at a milky way that stretches majestically from horizon to horizon is where I want to begin my nights under the stars. If that means a few hours drive to get there, so be it. 
I guess it comes down to what you are prepared to put up with. Miserably poor views but great, easy access to the comforts of home or a miserably poor time travelling and all the creature comforts of camping rough in the middle of the wilderness. :D 
You can of course do both......... If you're a complete nutter :D  

Whatever you decide, have fun cause that's what it's really all about :) 


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've found a need for some compromise. My ideal would be to do what Steve does and just travel to dark sites. I do go to dark sites, but not as often I would like. This means some home observing.

I'm not fussed about looking at the same old washed out DSOs under LP so have bought a solar filter and I do things like tracking asteroids, sketching the moon and planets, double and variable stars. Not everyone's cup of tea. and certainly my second choice to dark sky DSOs, but it keeps me ticking over until I can make it to a dark dire,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really the only way to deal with light pollution is to get away from it.

Depending where you observe you may be able to mitigate some of the problems by creating a small dark space, for example putting up some sort of screen in your garden to block direct sources. You may be able to talk to your local council to see if they can/will put some sort of screen around street lights. If/when you have a telescope, there are light pollution filters which may help to a limited extent depending on the type of light.

Certainly moving up to a telescope is the next step in astronomy. I imagine you use your binoculars mounted on a tripod? You might consider a smallish Maksutov design telescope which are very compact and you may be able to mount it on the same tripod. I don't know what's available in New Zealand, but perhaps something like: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html  Mak telescopes can help to increase contrast in light-polluted skies.

Compared to Europe, New Zealand is still comparatively free from LP: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=geographic&l=VIIRS_CityLights_2012,Coastlines&t=2016-07-07&v=170.8563246183655,-42.525907105789095,182.8621839933655,-36.663602418289095

You could also get in touch with the Tauranga Astronomical Society - they have a small observatory at Ferguson Park, and members will certainly have their favourite dark sites in the region: http://tauranga-astro.x10host.com/About.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
On 07/07/2016 at 09:38, Mattiman said:

... i was wondering how you guys that live in cities manage to observe with all the light pollution of street light and cars going by...

LP around me isn't too bad, but sometimes it's still like looking through fog, especially lower towards the horizon when there's far more atmosphere to go through.

On the other hand, endure a bit of neck-breaking (or get a sun lounger) and look as much as possible towards overhead, and there's far more to see clearly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.