Stargazing on Saipan


For those of you who enjoy stargazing, looking up at the beautiful night sky on Saipan on a clear night is an absolutely enjoyable experience, especially if you take your family, a pair of binoculars and/or a small telescope, a simple internet star atlas of the constellations and some lawn chairs up to the Banzai Cliff on a clear moonless night to enjoy the beautiful heavenly views that only the Banzai Cliff has to offer. If you bring along a small telescope, so much the better, especially for viewing the moon and planets.

Speaking of planets, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the beautiful Milky Way galaxy, are currently up and are directly overhead around midnight in the Saipan night sky. Both planets—Jupiter with its visible four moons and Saturn with its beautiful ring system—will make for a splendid view in any telescope of three-inch aperture or more using a medium power eyepiece. The bright planet Venus can be easily seen rising just before the Sun in the Saipan morning sky.

There are other great places on Saipan to stargaze from too. Pau Pau Beach is one. The big tourist hotels on Saipan with their white sand beaches are also some great places to spend an entire evening stargazing from, especially if you’re lying back in a big comfortable beach chair and looking up at the beautiful Milky Way with just a modest pair of 8×40 binoculars and your favorite beverage.

Stargazing under the beautiful night skies of Saipan is not only entertaining but is also educational, especially for the kids watching and learning about a meteor shower for the first time. Some meteor showers such as the famous Perseids meteor shower takes place every August. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with its peak in activity being between Aug. 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the meteor stream. The Perseids meteor shower can on the average produce 60 meteors per hour and upwards. If you’re into photography, bring along your camera and mount it on a sturdy tripod and point it at the meteor shower’s radiant (Wikipedia says “radiant” refers to the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to come from. The Perseids, for example, are meteors (remains of a comet) which appear to come from a radiant point within the constellation of Perseus). For starters, point your camera toward the meteor’s radiant in the constellation of Perseus and take some time exposure images (say 10-minute exposure). You can also try pointing your camera toward some point in the Milky Way during a meteor shower. Sometimes you can get lucky and capture a very bright meteor, a meteor described as a brilliant fireball (a Bolide) that lights up the night sky. Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to capture an image of a satellite tumbling through space. Or even better yet, the International Space Station as it passes silently overhead. That will be a truly memorable experience, especially if you capture its image the moment that it appears in your camera’s field of view.

I could go on and on about the fun and enjoyment of stargazing on Saipan, which I plan to do in future articles about stargazing and Saipan Astronomy. For a real fantastic night of stargazing fun and enjoyment, grab your binoculars, lawn chairs and some beverages and head out for a spectacular night of Saipan stargazing.

Norman Butler, Ph.D., is a retired astronomer and has been a Saipan resident since 2011. Butler, who holds degrees in Physics and Astronomy, has been with the U.S. Navy and at the Haleakala AMOS Observatory in Maui. He has also taught at Shenzhen Polytechnic College and at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China.

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