City Cast

How to Stargaze This Month in Chicago

Simone Alicea
Posted on July 6
Northern Lights and Milky Way in Wilderness State Park in Michigan. (Diana Robinson Photography / Getty)

Northern Lights and Milky Way in Wilderness State Park in Michigan. (Diana Robinson Photography / Getty)

This segment was written by Simone Alicea, lead producer of the City Cast Chicago podcast.

Did you catch that big Buck supermoon Monday night? It’s hard to miss when the moon is at its closest point to the Earth, but there’s a lot more to see in our Midwest skies.

I’ve been obsessed with trying to see the Milky Way this year, and July is the time to do it. Here’s what I’ve learned in my stargazing research:

Find a dark spot

It’s hard to see stars under the bright lights of the big city. Middle Fork River Forest Preserve in Champaign County boasts Illinois’ only internationally certified dark-sky park, but Palos Preserves in the southwest suburbs is a closer stargazing option.

Pick the best time to go

Like city lights, a bright moon can actually hurt your stargazing efforts. It’s best to look up during a new moon when there are no clouds. This month’s new moon is on July 17.

Get the right gear

Go for a beach chair, reclining camping chair, or even a hammock to stave off neck strain. Red light flashlights adjust your eyes to the dark and won’t disturb other stargazers — you can even make one yourself.

You might need more specific tools

Trying to scope out some planets? You might need to invest in binoculars. Want to map out constellations? Consider a stargazing app. Catching a meteor shower? Triple-check the timing and the weather.

🌌 As for me, I’m road-tripping to Michigan during the new moon to take advantage of their especially dark skies. I will report back with what I find.

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