by Mimi Montgomery
If you spend your winter evenings bundled up inside watching Netflix, you’ll miss seeing the spectacular shows of a celestial sort taking place right outside your four walls. Stargazing is at its best during the winter: Cold air has less capacity for holding moisture, so the air is drier, the Earth’s atmosphere is less hazy, and conditions are crystal-clear for gazing upwards.
If you’re looking for a guided experience, Morehead Planetarium hosts free skywatching sessions every month. Planetarium staff, Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society members, and the Raleigh Astronomy Club bring telescopes and help gazers navigate the starry night. Visitors can learn which constellations to look for during which seasons, and hear a few cultural legends about the stars.
On Dec. 2, the Morehead crew invites visitors to join them at Little River Regional Park for a viewing of Venus, Mars, and the moon. The next evening, there’ll be a skywatching at Jordan Lake, where Mercury is supposed to make an appearance. In the new year, there’s another session on Jan. 7 – if conditions are good, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Mars. Show up for one or all: No two stargazing sessions are ever the same, and sometimes double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and other galaxies are visible, as well.
Come layered up with a crew in tow (all ages are welcome), but try to leave your smartphones in the car – you’ll be amazed at how much more you can see with just your night vision.
Dec. 2: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Little River Regional Park, 301 Little River Park Way, Rougemont; Dec. 3: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Jan. 7, 6 – 8 p.m.; Ebenezer Church Recreation Area at Jordan Lake, 2582 Beaver Creek Road, Apex; moreheadplanetarium.org