If you love stargazing, you’ve probably wondered about what more you can observe outside of your nighttime gazing.
Can stars be observed during the daytime? Yes and no.
The short answer is yes. You can observe bright stars during the day, and the sun is the closest star to our planet, but it can be dangerous to attempt to observe it without the proper equipment.
The other half of the answer is no, you can’t observe stars during the day – at least not with the naked eye.
In this article, we will dismantle this question and clear up any confusion on whether or not stars can be observed during the daytime.
The Literal Answer
You cannot observe stars during the daytime with the naked eye. There are billions of stars in the sky, but the sun prevents us from observing those stars during the day. The sun has a potent reach, and the glare of refracted light prevents us from spotting any stars. In addition, the glare from the sun may hurt your eyes.
The Technical Answer
Yes, you can see the stars during the daytime using a pair of high-definition binoculars or a telescope. The telescope’s magnification and light gathering capacity can overcome the sun’s glare, allowing you to see the stars. But, first, you must figure out where to point your telescope or binoculars so the star’s brightness can come through.
More advanced telescopes have auto settings that allow you to choose the object you want to view. For example, the telescope will automatically adjust to the right angle and settings for viewing daytime stars.
Why We Can’t See Stars with the Naked Eyes
The sun is a large daytime star, but it’s also a scorching celestial object with amazing refraction that no other star can shine through. Even Sirius, the brightest night-time star, is near impossible to see in the daytime – it would have to shine five times its normal capacity to be seen during the day.
In the past, there have been some accounts of seeing the stars during the day. For example, Sir John Herschel stated that one could spot stars in the daytime from the bottom of mine shafts, coal pits, cisterns, or tall chimneys. There are even folktales of celestial light streaks reflecting in the bottom of dark lakes. The belief was that the darkness of the lakes provided the sharp contrasts for stars and bright objects to reflect.
However, these accounts are not firsthand and have no real credibility. Moreover, there’s almost no reason that the height of a chimney or the darkness of a well would improve daytime star visibility.
A.G. Smith measured the brightness and transition of lights using a photometer and a photometric densitometer and discovered that the sky maintains the same color and brightness inside and outside a chimney.
Only the darkness of a solar eclipse is strong enough to help you see a star during the daytime with your naked eyes.
In the 19th Century, German scientist and naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt, and his students experimented with seeing stars in the daytime. They chose a 230-foot chimney with a 16-foot opening and targeted Vega, the fifth brightest star in the night sky.
However, they couldn’t spot Vega even though some participants used regular binoculars. Instead, they observed that the sun was too bright for them to see anything at all.
Observing Stars During the Day with a Telescope
Telescopes are not as effective during the day, as they are mostly built for nighttime use. However, you can adjust some advanced telescopes to switch features for daytime observation.
During the day, you can’t get the same image clarity as at night, but you can make some interesting observations with your telescope. Also, you will only spot the brighter and closer stars rather than the fainter stars. So the most important thing is to know when and where to look.
Pointing the telescope or high-definition binoculars in the right direction increases the chances of the star’s brightness working with the lenses’ magnification and light gathering capacity to avoid the sun glare and produce clearer images.
Some have observed that it’s best to have them facing south while the sun is in the west, and this usually corresponds to a few hours before sunset.
Here are a few tips for observing stars with your telescope:
- Early morning and late evening are the best times for star observation.
- Use white light filters. The optical tube assembly of a telescope can heat up significantly when used for extended periods during the daytime, leading to eye damage.
- Use phone apps or software such as Stellarium, which allows you to find certain constellations and know what stars are located overhead ahead of time.
- If you are a professional astronomer, invest in a computerized telescope.
- Use sky maps and paper charts to navigate your vision better.
Stars You Can Observe During the Daytime
Stars are not nocturnal – they are there whether it’s daytime or night. Around 2500 stars are observable at night, but not all of them can be seen even with the most advanced telescopes during the day.
Here are some recognizable constellations and stars even amateur astronomers may spot during the daylight hours.
- Orion primary stars such as Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, and Alnitak.
You can also observe bright planets like Venus. Venus is usually seen during the daytime and even with the naked eye. Venus has an apparent magnitude of -2.9 to -5, so it can be spotted when the sun is below 10° above the horizon. Jupiter has a magnitude of -1.7 to -2.9. Mars, Mercury, and Saturn are also prominent planets with the required minimum brightness in the daytime.
How to Observe the Sun
The sun is our nearest star and is the most natural celestial object to observe in the daytime. However, naked-eye viewing or looking through optics can be dangerous. Here are a few interesting ways you can enjoy observing the sun.
One major solar observation is the solar and lunar eclipse. The solar eclipse is a short period whereby the moon passes in front of the sun and blocks its light. Eclipses can happen for a few seconds or up to eight minutes.
A solar eclipse is usually better observed in remote locations.
Observing white lines is a safe way of viewing surface granulation and sun spots. You should learn to observe sunspots along the faculae. The faculae are usually close to the darker area of the sun disk.
Special hydrogen-alpha eyepieces and telescopes allow you to get a crisp view of the red chromosphere that one would ordinarily only be able to view during an eclipse.
Filaments add prominence to the sun’s main disk. They stand out as curvy lines on the sun’s surface.
Safe Ways to Look at the Sun
Since looking at the sun directly with your eyes can damage them, here are a few safer methods you can employ when observing the sun.
- Buy a Herschel wedge prism or eyepiece filter. This replaces your diagonal in the refractor and reduces the sun’s intrinsic brightness to transmit a suppressed and safe amount of light to the eye.
- Invest in a specialist solar telescope to give you different sun views at dynamic wavelengths.
- Use a white light solar filter that fits your telescope well. You can also make optical filters at home.
- Project the views onto a piece of card first. You should cap off optical finders so that no one else looks through them accidentally.
What Other Space Effects Can I Observe During the Day?
When certain elements mix, you can observe a few atmospheric effects in the sky. For example, you may catch sun pillars that occur when the sun gets low. In rare cases, you may see the green flash. You should watch out during sunrises and sunsets to increase your chances of success.
Also, the sun gets affected when there’s a cirrus cloud in the sky. This can come in the form of sundogs or parhelia. Parhelias appear as pinpoints of light on one side of the sun and may look like a rainbow through the telescope.
The answer to the question “can stars be observed during the day?” is both yes and no. Stars can’t be observed with the naked eye in broad daylight due to the sun’s glare. However, you can observe some stars during the day with the aid of a telescope.
If you are considering daytime gazing, there are many interesting things you can observe. This can range from the sun itself to stars like Vega and Sirius, planets, and more. Ensure you take the necessary precautions and keep a chart to help locate the stars and planets.
However, the sky offers a clearer vast collection of stars at night. Therefore, nighttime will always be superior for astronomical observation, especially if you are only interested in stars.