Our weather in Southern California has been persistently cloudy and gloomy. Typically, this time of year we get cloudy nights that clear to sunny days. But for months now the sky has not cleared during the day, and the nights have remained cloudy and sometimes drizzly. Weather naturally contributes to our ability to enjoy the night sky, but sadly we can’t do anything to control it. But what we can do is try to take advantage of other non-observing or photographing activities that can enhance our knowledge and prepare us for when the weather actually is cooperating.
When faced with a cloudy night, amateur astronomers can still engage in several activities that don’t require clear skies for observing celestial objects. Here are a few things you can do:
- Read Astronomy Books: Expand your knowledge of astronomy by reading books on various topics like cosmology, astrophysics, or the history of astronomy. This can help deepen your understanding of the subject.
- Watch Astronomy Documentaries: Explore the fascinating world of astronomy through documentaries. Many streaming platforms offer a wide range of documentaries covering various aspects of astronomy, from space exploration to the lives of stars.
- Plan Observing Sessions: Cloudy nights are an excellent opportunity to plan future observing sessions. Research upcoming celestial events like meteor showers, eclipses, or planetary alignments. Make a list of objects you want to observe once the skies clear up. Preparation is incredibly useful for successful astrophotography sessions.
- Improve Your Equipment: Use the downtime to maintain and upgrade your astronomy equipment. Clean your telescope lenses, collimate the mirrors, or fine-tune your mount. Consider adding new accessories like filters or eyepieces to enhance your viewing experience.
- Study Star Charts and Astronomy Software: Familiarize yourself with star charts or astronomy software programs. Learn how to navigate the night sky and identify constellations, stars, and deep-sky objects. There are various apps available for smartphones that can assist you in this regard. Many aspects of our hobby have steep learning curves. Take advantage of cloudy nights to study and watch videos. There are many useful YouTube videos that help shorten the learning curve for virtually every aspect of this hobby.
- Learn Astrophotography Techniques: Cloudy nights are an excellent opportunity to learn about astrophotography techniques. Study different methods of capturing celestial objects using cameras and telescopes. Familiarize yourself with image processing software and techniques for enhancing astrophotos.
- Attend Astronomy Webinars or Lectures: Check if there are any online webinars, lectures, or virtual astronomy events happening in your area. Many organizations and universities offer virtual presentations where you can learn from professional astronomers or enthusiasts.
- Explore Online Astronomy Communities: Engage with online astronomy communities, forums, or social media groups. Participate in discussions, share your experiences, and learn from other amateur astronomers. You can also seek advice, ask questions, or share your astrophotography work. There are many astrophotography websites and forums dedicated to this hobby. Check out CloudyNights.com for example.
Remember, cloudy nights are a natural part of astronomy, and there is still plenty to learn and enjoy even when direct observation is not possible. Use this time to expand your knowledge and deepen your passion for the cosmos.