Outside After Dark: Why and How to Try Stargazing (Vicky Derksen)

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When we talk about going outside every day, we usually mean in the daytime. But what if heading outside after dark for a little stargazing is just the boost your outdoor habit needs?

Vicky Derksen, host of the Night Sky Tourist podcast and a stargazing enthusiast joined us for this episode to talk about something almost completely new to Amy: stargazing. With tips and tricks for how to get into the hobby, this really informative episode is the perfect gateway to helping would-be starwatches step outside at night a little night sky viewing.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:39] Vicky Derksen’s favorite outdoor space

[3:53] How Vicky became someone who likes to go outside

[5:20] What is “light pollution?”

[8:38] How to stargaze close to home

[12:16] What you’re skipping by only going outside during the day

[18:18] What’s the best way to learn the stars?

[23:03] How the stars move

[24:03] Why people don’t want to go out after dark

[26:46] What to wear for stargazing

[30:16] What are “star stories” and why are they important?

[34:30] What are the best ways to learn local star stories?

[37:18] How to get into stargazing

[39:31] Vicky’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[41:31] Vicky’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

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Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:06

No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside is always worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while learning from fascinating outdoor-minded guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 18 years, but life, including my husband’s war injuries, has burnt us out. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if a change of scenery and new focus on outdoors was just the shift we needed. Since September 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what, to explore how nature can change my life. Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

Vicki Dirksen loves something I am only just learning to appreciate: nighttime. While I’ve always seen night as the time a person goes to sleep, Vicky knows it is when magic happens in the sky. That’s because after dark is when you can look up to see the dark sky and witness stars, planets, and the night sky. Night sky viewing and spreading a love for heading out after dark as a dark sky tourist has become Vicky’s passion. She is the vice president of the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association near her home on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s also the project development manager for the International Dark Sky Discovery Center, a 15,000 square foot Learning Center in the funding phase located in Fountain Hills. But of course that’s not all. She also runs a night sky education website nightskytourist.com, and a truly fascinating podcast, Night Sky Tourist. And I don’t just say that because she had me, a totally amateur night sky viewer on as a guest. She’s had honest to God experts and scientists on too. Vicky, welcome to Humans Outside. You’re the first guest I’ve ever had on here to talk about the dark, and I’m so excited that we’re doing this.

VD 2:21

Well, I’m always happy to talk about the dark. Thanks for having me.

AB 2:26

So we start our podcast episodes talking about our guest’s favorite outdoor space, as if we were hanging out there together having this conversation. So where are we with you today?

VD 2:39

Well, one of my favorite places that I hang out frequently when I’m able to get away is about an hour north of where I live. It’s near Payson, Arizona, and they have exceptionally dark skies, and we like to go up there. There’s a little lake and we camp near the lake where we can kayak during the day. But at night time, stars are absolutely stunning. And you can even see the Milky Way from there, which most people can’t see anymore.

AB 3:06

That’s so, so fantastic. Happy to join you out there as a night sky guide for me because as I mentioned, this is not my area of expertise. It’s something my family and I have only started to dabble in. And I’m really, man, I learned a whole lot just from your free printable that you send when you subscribe to your newsletter and to your website. Even that was an education for me and I passed it on to my son. So thank you so much for all the work you’ve done on that because I found it super beneficial.

VD 3:42

I’m happy to hear that. Thank you.

AB 3:45

So how did you become someone who likes to go outside and specifically enjoys going out at night? How did this become a passion?

VD 3:53

I’ve always enjoyed being outside. I grew up in northern Idaho. So my mom made us go outside a lot. On the weekends, we would often go on a family drive out into the countryside and pick huckleberries and, you know, just kind of roam around where my parents could have some time away from home. So I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. And you know, I can remember one time being in bed at night as a kid and my dad coming and getting us kids out of bed and saying you got to come outside. We went outside and we saw the Northern Lights, which was amazing. And now you live in Alaska so you understand what it’s like that it gets dark really early at night. And when I grew up in Idaho, we experienced things similar to that. I always kind of grew up playing outside at night with friends or with my brothers. But it wasn’t really until I moved to Phoenix and I lost my view of most of the stars that I really started to understand the importance of the night sky and I’m really interested in stargazing.

AB 5:04

Hmm. Okay, so before we keep going, you keep referring to it being really dark and how that’s really necessary. So this ties into a concept known as light pollution. What is light pollution? What does that mean?

VD 5:20

Well, light pollution is something that I didn’t even know existed until I moved to the Phoenix area. That was my first memorable experience with it. And it’s really where the artificial lights that we have on our homes and our businesses throughout our communities shine upward, and create glare. And that glare washes out the night sky. And so we can’t see the Milky Way. In fact, over 80% of the earth population can’t see the Milky Way anymore. And so that’s those lights that are too bright for what they really need to do. They’re those lights that aren’t shielded. So they’re shining upward into the sky with just completely wasted light. And having lights on when we don’t need them, where we don’t need them. And it takes something away from our view of the sky, not to mention what it does to wildlife and our human health, too.

AB 6:17

So you know, it’s interesting, because I’m like, I’m sitting here thinking now, I also said that I don’t spend a lot of time outside in the dark. It’s something we’re just getting used to. Right. So with that little caveat, I’m remembering being a kid in Santa Cruz, California, so on the beach, but in a populated area and seeing the Milky Way. And I can’t even here in Alaska, I’m not sure the last time I saw the Milky Way.

VD 6:42

Hmm, yeah, our lighting technology has changed over the years. And so everybody’s been switching to LEDs, because we’re being told, Oh, you know, this is better for the environment, because we’re saving energy. And that’s that part’s true. But we’re also starting to use lights that are so much more bright, we’re using so much more of them. We’re being told that it provides more safety, which is not necessarily true. Lighting does provide safety. But you know, it only goes so far and then you’ve just oversaturated everything. So, yeah, so from the time that you and I were kids till now, lighting technology is really ramped up.

AB 7:23

Okay, so that ties into my next question for you, which is why I wanted to define it. One of the things we’re focusing on in this season of Humans Outside is nearby nature and nature accessibility. So this idea that you don’t have to have in your brain that you get in a car and drive hundreds of miles away to go to nature that nature is, in fact outside your door. But of course, that requires that we shift a little bit about how we think about nature, from being the Grand Canyon or something like that to being what’s outside your door. And of course, that is really dependent on where you live. So is stargazing something someone can do when they live in a city when they live somewhere where this light is just a part of life, you know, you can turn the lights off on your home, but that doesn’t impact the fact that you live near high rises or whatever. Right. So, um, is it something that people can do when they live in a city? And how can you see the stars if maybe you can’t regularly travel somewhere that’s really dark?

VD 8:38

This is such a good question, because one of the things that I really encourage people to do is to develop a backyard stargazing habit. And yes, because like you said, you know, most of my stargazing has happened in my own yard. And I’ve done a lot of stargazing in different places with my own community because I get invited to bring my telescope to places, but compared to the amount of stargazing I do in my own backyard, I do very little stargazing where I’ve had to travel somewhere. I might travel somewhere for some other reason and make time for outside stargazing. You know, if you live in a city, really, the big thing is that you’re just going to have less things that you can see, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a night of stargazing, you just won’t see as much. And sometimes depending on where you live, sometimes that can be a little bit beneficial because those major constellations tend to stand alone a little bit more. When you go out where it’s really, really dark, sometimes those major constellations just, you know, get sucked up into all those other stars. You can still see, with the exception of some really bright places, obviously, if you live in New York City, it’s going to be pretty tough. But you know, you can still find a way to enjoy the night sky.

AB 10:17

Yeah. Yeah, you know, I love that, that there are pros and cons in a way. You know, it’s like saying that it’s similar to the way there are pros and cons to using whatever nature is outside your door. Right? Like, okay, is the Grand Canyon fantastic? Yes. 100%, no question about it. Very beautiful, full of awe, helps your brain, all sorts of things, right? Is there something fantastic in its own way about whatever’s outside your door? Whether that be even just a tree planted in a small green spot in the sidewalk? Or, you know, something more, you know, backyard garden-esque. Are there specific and wonderful benefits to that that you don’t get at the Grand Canyon? Yes, there are. And what you’re saying is the same thing about the night sky, you can see a bajillion stars at the Grand Canyon, I assume, I’ve never been there. But they sort of washed out some of the more prominent constellations that you now have a special way to appreciate in your own backyard, wherever you are.

VD 11:28

Absolutely, absolutely. I think that people underrate what they can see from home.

AB 11:37

So we spend a lot of time talking about prioritizing going outside during the day. And by we I mean me, but I think I think a lot of people do this right? That we talk a lot about daylight in the benefit of, you know, getting some, some vitamin D from the sunshine and you know, and especially up here in the far north, that’s the guidance, right? You want to get out when it’s light outside, it helps your circadian rhythm, all that stuff. Okay. Um, but when you just harp on that all the time, you’re missing out on going outside at night, which we’re saying in this episode has its own benefits. Okay, so what specifically are people missing out on?

VD 12:16

Well, this is a really, really important question, because every day has a night, right? So you go outside, like you said during the day, and you’re getting your vitamin D, and you’re setting the stage for that circadian rhythm. And then what we tend to do when the sun goes down, is to override that circadian rhythm by turning on our lights in our house. We turn on all the lights, we stuff our face in our computer, our TV, our, our devices, and all that, that artificial light, and especially from our devices, that blue light, it’s hijacking your circadian rhythm. So you can be doing all those great things for yourself during the day, getting the natural sunlight and prepping your circadian rhythm, and then you derail it once the sun goes down. And so there’s something really valuable about appreciating the fact that every day has a night and it is dark, and you know, maybe dimming the lights a lot more in your house, only turning on a couple of them, let your eyes adapt to the dark a little bit and spend some time outside. You know, light pollution actually disrupts circadian rhythms. And it can cause a lot of health problems in humans and, and wildlife as well. It disrupts their mating patterns and their way of communicating with one another. And it’s just such a valuable thing to appreciate that and to let ourselves follow that rhythm.

AB 13:53

And then they’re also missing out on simply seeing the stars.

VD 13:58

Absolutely. And you know that that was half human experience before we had artificial light. You know, our ancestors, that time was so important for them, they used those stars to tell their stories and, and I’m sure that you know, we’re gonna chat about that. But we’ve lost a connection to the night sky and what it means to humanity.

AB 14:23

You and I were joking, when you talked to me for your own podcast, about my son and his habit of coming up with his own constellations and constellation stories, which by the way are endless. You could be there literally all night listening to this kid. But I had concluded you know, he’s asking me – Well, where did this come from? How did these people come up with this? You know, cuz he’s not visualizing what the constellation is supposed to visualize and I’m aware of that, you know, some of the stars that the ancients saw when they named these constellations are no longer visible to us. So that’s certainly true. However, you know, I told him – I think they were just really bored buddy, you know, not a lot else going on. I joke, but that’s true in a way and when we don’t go out, and we don’t experience the night sky, and we don’t give our chance ourselves a chance to be a little bored, and listeners can hear an entire episode about this very thing on the Humans Outside Podcast in our episode with Michael Easter, about the benefits of boredom. He wrote a book on the subject, called The Comfort Crisis. When we don’t go outside and experience this stuff, we are just putting our brains on hyperdrive all the time. And it’s the brain equivalent of this blue light problem that you identified that we’re letting light derail us, we’re letting our constant contact and constant engagement derail our ability to appreciate simple things and all the benefits of doing so, such as the stars.

VD 16:20

There’s a lot of times that I go out and do stargazing with people, and they just can’t help but pull out their phone and try to take photos, which never turns out. Because, you know, our phone technology is only just now trying to be able to take those kinds of photos and then they turn their photos on and it blasts out their night vision. And it is hard it’s just hard to sit back and just look and just feel.

AB 16:54

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Yeah, okay. So I think it’s hilarious that you brought the phones because the thing I’m about to ask you, I think I now know your answer. Okay. What is the best way to learn about stargazing? And I have been trying to use an app – womp womp – called Night Sky. Most of the time, by the way, I feel like I’m a pretty smart person. But this app really confuses the crap out of me. Is it pointed the right way in the sky, where the stars really, really are? The moon never seems to be in the right place. Okay, what should I be doing? What’s the best way to learn about this?

VD 18:18

Actually, I’m not opposed to using a stargazing app, and I’d say all my top three tips for how to learn the night sky, using a stargazing app is actually one of them. The trick with using a stargazing app so that you don’t completely destroy your night vision is to, before you even use it, before you even go outside, to turn the screen brightness down. Ah, so yeah, get your screen brightness down. Most phones have some kind of a night mode. So put it in night mode that kind of gives your screen more of a reddish color. And red light is a little much less likely to ruin your night vision as long as it’s not too bright.

AB 19:02

These are actionable, clear steps that I am very much taking note of and 100% going to do on this very night. I believe it is supposed to be clear. So keep going.

VD 19:15

So I think, stargazing apps, there’s a lot of them, most of them are really great. And just find one that you really like and then just set up your phone so that you’re preserving your night vision and then use that. That’s a great way to go out and start learning. Okay, I see something that looks like a pattern over here. What is it? And you can point your phone over there and you might find out – oh, that’s the constellation Capricornus or that Orion or whatever. Or maybe you see a really, really bright star in the western sky tonight that is super, super bright. And you know – what star is that? And you point an app up there and you find out – oh, that’s Venus. That’s not even a star at all. And so that’s one of my number one tips to learning the night sky. Use a stargazing app. Another tip for learning the night sky is really to give your eyes time to adjust to the dark, because the more time your eyes have to adjust to the dark, the more you can actually see. And science has been telling us that it takes our eyes about 40 minutes to fully adjust to our surroundings in the dark. And once you do that, though, you almost don’t need a light for anything. If there’s not much of a moon out or no moon out, I can do remarkable things in the dark. I mean, we’re not as cool as some of the animals that are out there. But our eyes are pretty remarkable. So when we go outside and we spend five minutes or 10 minutes stargazing, and we’ve just come from a brightly lit house and we’re trying to take pictures of the sky with our phone, we never give our eyes a chance to adjust to the dark. So I know that your goal is 20 minutes. If you went outside and you gave your eyes just 20 minutes to adapt to the dark, that would be fantastic. Most people give less time. And my third tip is to stargaze regularly. And the reason is because you’ll start to notice on your own how different constellations will change their position in the sky. As the years go by, you can be aware of the phases of the moon, is there a moon up there right now? If not, why? When is it coming up? And then you can also watch the planets drift across the sky. Right now we see Venus, and Saturn and Jupiter clear up till the end of this year, and then they’re gonna start slipping out of our night sky. And then you’ll have to start being an early bird pre-dawn, well, that won’t be hard for you in Alaska right now. In Arizona, it’s a little tougher, you’d have to get up before the sunrise and, and you’ll be able to start seeing them before the sun comes up.

AB 22:13

I’m really enjoying this conversation because you are sharing brand new information with me. So I hope our listeners are learning as much as I am. Because often I interview people about things that I’m relatively familiar with, but this is definitely not one of them. So I will say, like even my very amateur viewing, I have noticed the shifting constellations. And I think part of, so correct me if I’m wrong, part of that is because I’m viewing these things at night and in the morning in the dark sky. So for example, I’ll be looking out at pre-dawn, and this constellations will be in one spot. And then of course, you know, the opposite time of day, after dark in the evening, they’re in a different spot. And that’s because they move over the course of the night. Right?

VD 23:03

Right. So there’s different things happening. And I’ll just put some short little scientific nutshell here. One, of course, is that our earth is spinning. And so from our perception, the sky is rolling across from east to west. But then something else is happening. And that is that we’re traveling around the sun. So when we’re on one side of the sun, the constellations that are on the other side, we can’t see. So seasonally, the constellations will change. We’re just now getting to where we can see Orion pop up before we go to bed at night. That’s something you cannot see at all during summer months. We were seeing Scorpius all summer, and it has disappeared. We can’t see it at all anymore. So part of it is seasonality. And the other part is just our earth spinning.

AB 24:01

Hmm. Okay. Good. Good information. Say, guys, I just don’t know anything about this. Alright, so do you find people are hesitant to spend time outside at night? Maybe they are like me, and they like to go to sleep. But maybe that’s not it. So if so why? And is it maybe they’re afraid of the dark? Or they’re conditioned, like I am, to think daylight’s where it’s at. What’s going on here?

VD 24:30

I think there’s a combination of things going on right there. We have a culture of being afraid of the dark. And that’s why we light up the outside with artificial lights at night because we’re trying to banish the dark like it’s a bad thing. So culturally, I think that’s embedded in us a bit. But I also think that people are busier than ever now. And I think when the night time comes like you said, either they’re just too tired and they want to go to bed, or they’re too tired and they have a habit of vegging out with a movie or, or binge watching a TV show, or, you know, just things that are indoor activities. We don’t ever think – I’ve had an exhausting day. I’m going to go veg out under the stars. Yeah, I think it’s just a shift of mindset. And you know, at different times of the year, in Arizona in the summer, it’s still 100 degrees at 10 o’clock at night.

AB 25:32

Sounds great right now.

VD 25:36

So it’s uncomfortable to be out there. And you know, it’s great if you have a pool, you can go float in your pool. But then the opposite is true. Like you right now. Alaska. I have no idea what the temperature is. But I’m pretty sure it’s below freezing.

AB 25:52

Oh, my goodness, at the time of this recording, it is not nice. Well, it’s dark. But the high today will be negative. Yes. That’s the first word to write. Now, the last time I looked at my outdoor thermostat, it was negative 15.

VD 26:08

Oh, goodness, you should come visit me in Arizona. It’s going to be 80 degrees today.

AB 26:13

I could get on board with that right now.

VD 26:18

So a lot of times the temperature outside dictates whether we feel like going out or not. And I’m sure you’ve had a lot of conversations about this on your podcast about, you know, dressing for the weather. So let’s figure out – okay, how can I make myself comfortable out in that? And honestly, we’re coming up on winter time right now. And winter time has some amazing stargazing opportunities.

AB 26:46

Yeah, we do talk about how to dress a lot. And so I’ll give my spiel on that real fast. It’s all about the layering, right? It’s all about knowing which fabrics to use, and then how to layer them. So short version, don’t wear cotton, because it’s not insulating, and if it gets wet, it keeps you wet. And these are both bad things. And I’m a big fan of investing in quality, high quality, long lasting, very warm things. But I’m talking to us from somewhere that it’s negative 15 outside right now, and I’m going to wear them all the time. I also totally realize that I have the privilege of having the funding to do that. And so with that caveat, I say, if that’s not you, you can still go outside, it is entirely possible to simply layer. There is a really funny episode of Friends, which I love, where Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes, you might look like that, it’s fine. Just make sure they’re not cotton. Okay, and so you want to have layers, layers, thoughtful layers on with a base layer of something not cotton, tight against your skin, followed by an insulating mid layer, or if things are really cold, I guess you could wear two of them. So think something like fleece, followed by a top layer where it is either, you know, it’s additional insulation, but also typically sort of keeps you from getting wet. So if it is a moist night, or there’s rain or something like that, that top layer is there for that. People will look at my Instagram feed for Humans Outside and they can see that I wear a lot of very puffy things. I don’t care if I look like a marshmallow, it’s fine. And so that’s how I roll. But yes, knowing what to wear so that you can be comfortable is the most important thing going outside.

VD 28:44

I have one tip to that too, especially when, especially when the weather is cold and you want to go some time outside. You know, we talked about how long it takes for our eyes to adapt to the dark. So while you’re getting dressed into your layers, turn the lights off inside your house, and maybe spend 10 or 15 minutes in your dark house where it’s warm before you go outside. And that way your eyes can pre adjust. And you’re not spending those cold moments outside waiting for your eyes to adjust.

AB 29:18

That is really smart. That’s why we have you on our podcast today. Because I did not think of that. We talked earlier about star stories. We sort of walked by it and the ancients and our indigenous people. So I want to come back to that. We talked about where the constellations came from, we talked about how these things got their names. We know that some of those are from long ago ancients. There’s also individual star stories based on locality from our indigenous people whose lands many of us now live on. What should we know about all these stories? How does this help our night time outside? You know what I mean? How does it help? And why is it important?

VD 30:16

I love talking about this. This is something I’m still learning a lot about. And I think everyone is right now because, you know, as Americans, we’ve really inherited the Greek and the Roman and, you know, Babylonian star stories. So when we look up at the constellations, that’s what we see, we see Orion as a hunter, or we see Capricorn as the goat or Aries as a ram. Those are the things we’ve inherited from our European ancestors. And we’ve brought it here with us. But not all of the indigenous peoples saw the same thing in the stars. And, and so they had, you know, their own star stories. So for example, I love this example, Orion in the European tradition, Orion was a mighty hunter, and we see him with his belt. Across his waist, we see his sword hanging from his belt. And there’s stories that encompass nearby constellations that tell his story. And it’s fabulous. It’s really fun. But that story isn’t the same for other cultures around the world. So for example, in Australia, or I’m sorry, in New Zealand, their star story is completely different, because they don’t see Orion as a hunter at all. They see a canoe in the sky, and his belt, made up of those three stars in a row that are a straight line, they see those as three brothers who are sitting in the canoe. And then the three stars that hang down to make Orion’s sword, they see that as three fish that are dangling in the ocean off of the side of the canoe. And we have a whole story about that, which is really fantastic. But the point is that different cultures saw different things. They use those things to tell different stories. Sometimes they were tell, you know, their origins. Where did they as a people come from? How did all the people get here on Earth, the Cree Indians of North America and Canada. They have an amazing story or a story of the Pleiades and that we all came here through Pleiades. And so sometimes they tell stories of where they’re where they came from, sometimes their stories for their children that are moral lessons, because the New Zealand story of the canoe with the brothers is a moral story because they were out fishing and caught kingfish. And in their culture and their tradition, the kingfish was an elevated fish, and they should have been protecting it, not catching it to eat. So these stories were told for different purposes. And of course, we can’t ever overlook the fact that the stars for every culture across all time were used as a calendar, it helped them to decide – when is it time to plant our crops? When is it time to harvest our crop? When is the season when the snakes are going to crawl out of the ground? And we need to start watching out for snakes? When do the snakes go back into the ground?

AB 33:35

That’s the important question. Yeah.

VD 33:39

And then of course, they use them to help mark when they have their cultural festivals and celebrations, and so the stars have been wrapped up in human tradition and storytelling since the beginning of human time. And that’s, you know, coming back to the concept of light pollution. When the light pollution erases those stories from the sky, we lose something as a human race.

AB 34:13

Oh, I love it. Thank you for sharing those with us. And that’s um, so let me ask you this, how could somebody learn the star stories of their specific location? So you’re obviously very familiar with many, and you are in Arizona, but our listeners are everywhere. So what’s the best way to connect with the star stories of your local indigenous population?

VD 34:43

That’s a good question. And I think right now the idea of bringing these star stories from different indigenous cultures into the mainstream consciousness, this is kind of a new thing. So you know, you might live in a place where a museum may tell some of that, but it is fairly new. So there is a website that I’ve just become familiar with. And it’s called, oh, I might tell you wrong, but I’ll give you a link for your show notes. There’s a woman who ‘s a native woman from one of the Dakotas, I believe, and she’s actually an astrophysicist. But she’s also starting to bring these indigenous star stories to light all around the world and collecting them, and finding a way to make it so that people can start to learn them. So we do recommend that website as a great starting point. But yeah, you know, a lot of times those indigenous people, those stories, were just for them. And so they’re not necessarily published out there. But starting with a local indigenous museum could be a good starting place.

AB 36:09

And I’ll add for listeners who are in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum has a planetarium and addresses some of these things here. And so my family and I will be visiting that this season, to learn those things there. So I cannot give you a review, because I have not yet gone. But I’ve read quite a bit about it. And I am excited to go check it out. So I hope you can do that too. If you’re here in Alaska, where I am. And I am going to go ahead and throw this out there, this has not happened yet, but I will reach out to this website you just mentioned and see about having them on the show. Because I think that would be really interesting.

Okay, um, we talked about tips for learning to stargaze. But from a more practical level, if this is something that you want to have as a new hobby, how can you get involved? I mean, you do night sky tours. So I’m obviously that’s a thing. Is there any other way?

VD 37:18

Sure. And you know, people need to realize you don’t necessarily have to own a telescope or binoculars to enjoy the night sky. They are great. I mean, if you can get one of those, definitely do it. But I also recommend to join your local astronomy club. There are cities across the world that have astronomy clubs, and the people who tend to them and run them have telescopes. And there’s nothing they love more than to pull out the telescope and do what they call a star party and just invite people to come. Sometimes they’ll have laser pointers where they can actually point things out in the sky to you. You know how impossible it is when somebody is pointing to something in the sky. And you don’t even know what they’re pointing at. So I recommend it for sure. There are some podcasts that have Star Tours. For example, on my podcast, Night Sky Tourist, the last part of every podcast, it’s intended for you to take a podcast outside. And I kind of give you a little tour across the night sky to identify planets, constellations, sometimes I’ll tell an indigenous star story with some of the constellations. So there’s things like that there. And also I really love getting a chance to visit observatories, planetariums, things like that. Even science centers that are focused on astronomy and things. And there’s so much fun stuff you can do. So as a night sky tourist, it’s everything from taking your eyes on a tour across the night sky, to traveling to really cool facilities where you can have an indoor experience.

AB 39:08

Awesome. Thank you so much. Okay, last part of our podcast, little leftovers situation. I’m really interested to hear about this since we’re talking about something so outside of my realm of expertise. Talk to me about what your favorite and or most essential gear would be like. For people who are looking for some tools or something that you love to use or whatever. What do you recommend?

VD 39:31

Well, I already mentioned using a star app and I don’t recommend any specific one because there’s so many good ones out there. So just pick one. But I also like to have a red flashlight. And one that’s not very bright because you go outside and you are going to have to make sure that you’re walking safely to wherever you’re going to go sit or stand. And the last thing you want to do is to turn on a regular flashlight or the flashlight on your phone, because it’s going to blow out your night vision. So get a flashlight that has a red light in it. And one that’s not too bright is perfect because red light does more to protect your night vision. It’s a great, great, great tool.

AB 40:16

Awesome. Yeah. Now that you mentioned it, I’m remembering that some of our headlamps that we own have a red light function. I was never entirely sure what that was for, to be honest with you.

VD 40:27

Yeah, it’s great for that. And, you know, just make sure that when you are with other people that you don’t aim your light at someone else’s face, because then you blow out their vision, even if it is red.

AB 40:37

Yes. Also something very difficult to remember. Remember when the headlamp is on your head? Yeah. Solid tip, thank you. If you’re looking for a kind of, you know, specific headlamp guys, I just recommend you just give it a quick Google, there are so many different options. Some are rechargeable, some have long lasting batteries, some are super lightweight, it would be basically impossible for me to give you a specific recommendation on that. So I’m just not going to do it.

Okay, last question. If we’re going to walk out of this conversation with you envisioning ourselves in a moment outside that really gives you peace and joy, and is something you just like to think about, or hearken back to, where are you? What are you doing?

VD 41:31

Oh, I love this question. Because I love thinking about this one moment that really captured my attention. So we’re going to travel back in time to 1992. And I had graduated high school the year before, and I was in Albania for two months doing a humanitarian trip there. And we went into the northern part of the country for a couple of days. And our group decided we wanted to sleep outside under the stars. I don’t know, I was young, you know, early 20s. And we were all there, sleeping bags out right there on the ground, I crawled into my sleeping bag. And when I looked up, I couldn’t even speak. I had never in my life seen so many stars in the sky at one time. I just thought that those images that I saw and magazines and things like that, that they were doctored up a lot. And obviously some of those really are but this was a legitimately overwhelming starry night sky. And then to top it off, it was the major meteor shower that night. So I’ve never in my life before or after seen so many stars in such a small amount of time. That that memory will never leave my mind.

AB 42:52

That is so cool. I don’t think we’ve ever imagined ourselves in Albania.

VD 43:01

Yeah, I recommend it as a place to visit. I absolutely recommend it.

AB 43:05

Very cool. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today. I sure appreciate your expertise and sharing it with us.

VD 43:12

Thank you for inviting me. I had a great time and I love what you’re doing.

AB 43:18

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of humans outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, give us a little love and leave a rating and review to make it easier for others to find the podcast to what you say matters. It really truly does make a difference. And until next time, we’ll see you out there

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