CHOOSING A SITE
Your observing site will have a greater effect on your sky-watching than any piece of equipment. Of course, a dark site far from city lights is ideal, but few of us have that luxury. City-bound observers may not be able to find faint galaxies, but the Moon and planets can still look splendid.
If a bright light is glaring at you, your eyes will not fully adapt to the dark and it will be difficult to see fainter targets. Try to find a site shadowed from street and yard lights. A black cloth thrown over your head, in the style of old-time photographers, can also help.
Some enthusiastic amateurs build backyard observatories (check back issues of astronomy magazines for instructions). Some are simple garden sheds with flip-top or roll-off roofs. Others have rotating domes and heated rooms. No matter how modest, the convenience of a home observatory is hard to beat, even if the sky conditions are less than ideal.
As with most naturalist pursuits, however, the beauty of the night sky is enhanced if you leave the urban sprawl behind. A drive of 30 to 45 minutes beyond city limits is often enough to get out from under the dome of light that covers every city and town.
Particularly for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the best direction to drive from a city, if possible, is south. This puts the city glow to the north and places the southern sky— the most interesting part, which includes the Milky Way— above the darkest horizon. Parks are good destinations, but introduce yourself to the officials in charge or they might think you are a late-night vandal. Local astronomy clubs often maintain rural observatories on private land for their members. Observing with a group provides security and companionship.