The cool night air, vast dark sky, and wishing upon a shooting star. Whether it's stargazing, wishing on shooting stars, or taking in a meteor shower, the lights of the Universe spark romance in way like no other.
Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
have the wish, I wish tonight.
We'll make a wish, and do as dreamers do,
and all our wishes (all our wishes),
will come true. from Disney's Wishes
Romantic stargazing can be as easy as taking a walk at night together, hand-in-hand, to view the stars and constellations. In fact, it's the perfect way to end a great date, connecting you on a whole other level.
However, to really experience the wonder, amazement, and incredible romance the universe presents, you should plan a complete stargazing date night. Imagine lying together on a blanket, surrounded by the vast Universe, the feel of your bodies close in the still of the night, with nothing but calm silence other than the sound of your heart beat and breaths. The experience is so intimate and intense it will take your relationship to another level.
First, get yourself a good star chart to help you identify stars and constellations. Your best choice is a planisphere, which is a revolving wheel that helps you identify the stars in the sky on any particular night. The Guide to the Stars Chart to the left is the one that we use when stargazing. You simply select the month, day, and time of day and you'll have a complete chart of the current stars along with directions on how to identify them.
While not completely necessary, you may want to use a telescope, particularly if you're interested in viewing the moon, the planets, and the stars up close.
Bring along a large blanket for two, so that you can lay back on the ground side by side and view the sky. If it's a cooler month, bring along an extra blanket or sleeping bag to cuddle up in for warmth. Pack a midnight picnic along with some hot chocolate or a bottle of wine to make the night complete.
Viewing Meteor Showers
If you're looking for an incredibly unique and romantic date, plan it during a meteor shower. A few of the exciting annual meteor showers include the Leonid Showers in November, the Perseid Shower in August, and the Orionid Shower in October. These shows, which result from the Earth passing through debris and dust left behind from comets, produce spectacular shows. The Leonid showers, for example, can exceed more than 1000 meteors per hour! While there are meteor showers throughout the year, the Leonids and Perseids have proved to be the most visible and spectacular in recent years.
Leonid Shower - November 17th-18th
The Leonid meteor shower results from debris left behind by the Tempel-Tuttle Comet. The Earth passes through this debris every November, in the opposite direction, which produces a spectacular show including meteors in hues of white. blue, aquamarine, and green, with the occasional possible fire burst. It is truly one of the most spectacular shows to see. In fact, in 2009, the Earth passed through debris laid down by the comet in the year 1466!
While you will see meteors throughout the night sky, start by looking towards the constellation Leo, which is the radiant for this shower. The Leonids peak around November 17th each year.
For a preview of what you can see, check out this Space.com video of the Leonids meteor shower:
Perseid Shower - August 11th-12th
A favorite of enthusiasts, the Perseid shower results from debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet. In 2009, the Earth passed through the near center of the trail left by the comet in 1610!
The Perseids got their name because their center point lies in the constellation Perseus. While you will see meteors throughout the night sky, we recommend heading out at night and start by looking towards the constellation Perseus, the radiant for this shower. The Perseids peak around August 12th each year.
For a preview, check out this cool video:
Orionid Shower - October 20th-21st
The Orionid meteor shower results from debris left behind by Hailey's Comet. According to star watchers, the Orionid shower may not be one of the most intense, it's one of the prettiest.
While you will see meteors throughout the night sky, start by looking towards the constellation Orion's left shoulder, which is the radiant for this shower.
For a complete list of annual meteor showers, check out Wikipedia.
Meteor Shower Viewing
For the best -- and most romantic -- meteor viewing experience, first check NASA's Space.com website for prime viewing days and hours. Often, the best viewing is in the wee hours of the morning -- the 2009 Leonid shower had a peek around 4 am EST.
Once you know when to go, figure out where to go. The best viewing is generally in more rural areas, away from city lights. If there are nearby local lights, such as lamp posts, try to scout a location where the lights are blocked by a tree or building.
Dress warmly and take a blanket (or two) so that you can lay down together on your backs looking up at the sky. Bring along a midnight picnic and a bottle of wine for an extra spark of romance.
Most of all, have patience! Experts recommend that you give your eyes at least 5 minutes to adjust to the dark and 30-60 minutes to for the show. While astronomer's generally estimate the number of meteors that you'll view in a given hour, the actual meteors tend to come in bursts, with lulls that can get discouraging. Don't worry about bringing along a telescope or binoculars as meteors move too quickly for them to be of any use.