Aaniin, Hello All! My name is Geneva, and I would love to share some tips with you on observing our beautiful universe.
Looking up at the night sky is something cultures all over the world have been doing since time immemorial. We all share in the wonderment and beauty of the cosmos. Stargazing is a very fun, easy and rewarding activity to gain a closer connection to our universe.
Here are some tips I would recommend when going out to explore the night sky!
There is no bad weather, just bad clothing, check the weather and temperature to dress appropriately for the outdoors. You don’t need expensive gear, layering clothing is very effective.
Star guides are very helpful. Some even shift to provide a clear idea of the exact constellations based on the month and timing. There is also a great app if you are interested in Roman and Greek Constellations called Sky View Lite. Most of the star guides you will find are based in Greek and Roman mythology.
Check out the star stories and constellations that are traditional to the territory you live on. Here is a link to Native Sky Watchers, and initiative to remember and revitalized Indigenous teachings of Star and Earth knowledge, https://www.nativeskywatchers.com/. Here you will find amazing maps traditional to various places on Turtle Island.
Night vision is helpful to maintain. Looking from your star guide to the night sky is taxing on your eyes as they adjust from your flashlight to the dark. At night, your eyes are adjusting to the darkness when creating “night vision”. Essentially when it is dark the retinal and opsin molecules in your eyes merge to create rhodopsin, helping you have some vision in darker environments. When there is bright light present, say from a flashlight the rhodopsin splits into two, preventing night vision from working. A red light is a great solution to maintaining Night Vision.
Bring a red light. Most headlamps have a red-light feature that will help maintain your night vision. Red light frequency is very low when received by the cones in your eyes. This frequency does not disrupt the rhodopsin from working, and Night vision is maintained. If you do not have a red-light feature on a headlamp or flashlight, placing red coloured cloth, plastic or paper over your flashlight will create a similar effect.
Make a night of it! Enjoy the evening your self or bring some friends or family. A comfy blanket is always enjoyable with your favourite warm or cold beverage given the season.
You may notice that some stars twinkle more than others. Twinkling lights are stars because their light projected is intercepted by wave lengths in our atmosphere. Planets are larger and cast more light so they do not appear to blink.
The Evening Star and Morning Star is Venus. We can actually see Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter with our naked eye. Follow this link to see when the best viewing times are for these planets https://www.farmersalmanac.com/visible-planets-guide
When experiencing the night sky, we may see some relatives that enjoy the night as well. In order to share in this enjoyment, we must show reciprocity for these relatives. Here are two beings that need our help to ensure that we will live on together, Bats and Fireflies.
Bats are nocturnal flying mammals that are amazing pollinators, and insectivores. Bats need our help as their populations are decimated by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or white nose syndrome. We can help bats by creating a bat box and installing this in our backyard or natural area. Planting native night blooming flowers will also attract bats. Creating a water source if there is not one close by can also help to attract bat populations. Lastly try to avoid pesticides and insecticides as bats are consuming the poisoned populations of insects or are affected by pesticides on plants they visit.
Fireflies are sadly in decline as well. They provide joy to all that encounter them. Fireflies are thought to be in decline because of light pollution and the removal of leaf litter in the spring. Light pollution affects firefly’s ability to find a mate, as the light obscures their glow. What you can do to help fireflies is to turn off external lights at night, to try and reduce light pollution. When collecting leaf litter in the fall or spring, try to leave it over winter or place the leaf litter under shrubs and trees. This way the roots are protected in the winter and the creatures that need the leaf litter to survive are unharmed. Planting native plants is always a good rule of thumb when trying to help promote species as well as avoiding chemicals in your garden.
I hope these tips helped! Enjoy the night and remember that we share this wonderful environment with all our relations.