You know what it’s like to show up to a new kind of event and not know what to expect or what the “rules” are. You’re planning to enter a dance studio for the very first time. Will you have to remove your shoes? You’re visiting a public sauna for the first time. Are you allowed to talk while you’re there? You’re joining a hiking group to increase your exposure to the outdoors. Can you throw your apple core you brought for a snack off to the side for the wildlife to enjoy?
Every activity has its own etiquette that participants learn as they go. Stargazing is no exception.
When it comes to stargazing, ignoring light etiquette will put you on the Naughty List.
When we move from a light-filled space to a dark space, it takes our eyes time to adjust to the darkness. In fact, it can take up to forty minutes for the eyes to reach ideal dilation for casual stargazing! It only takes a quick flash of bright light to blow out everyone’s night vision.
Smartphones are usually the number one culprits for ruining your night vision. The built-in flashlight is far too bright, and even looking at your screen to use the camera is going to have consequences. You’re not likely to get a decent photo through the eyepiece anyway, so you’re better off just enjoying the view with your own eyes and letting it create a memory in your brain.
Other offensive lights include handheld flashlights and headlamps. One exception can be red lights. These can help you find your way around in the dark so no one trips or gets hurt, but only use as needed. And never aim the light toward someone’s face, especially with a headlamp. Even a red light in someone’s face is going to rob them of their night vision.
There is something magical and awe-inspiring about looking at the night sky or looking through a telescope. Moments like that deserve a certain amount of reverence. For that reason, consider keeping your conversations quiet to allow others the space for reflection and inspiration.
Likewise, the best conversations to have while stargazing are ones that promote positivity. Nothing throws a wet blanket on stargazing than conversations about current events, politics, gossip, or controversial topics. Allow the night sky to work its magic by focusing on uplifting and pleasant topics.
This tip pertains to stargazing that includes a telescope, not getting cozy with a partner or loved one. If there is a telescope present, please keep in mind that this is an expensive piece of equipment and the operator had to set it up in just the right position so you can actually see an object.
Never rest your hands on the telescope. It can shift it away from the object you’re supposed to see.
Don’t touch the eyepiece. Your eye can see through it just as well without you touching it. Actually, it can see it better! When you touch it, you make the telescope wiggle and the object will be blurry or fuzzy because of your movement, whether you realize you’re moving or not.
If you are traveling away from home to do some stargazing, please follow the rules of nature. There are several ways of expressing those rules: Pack It In, Pack It Out; Leave No Trace; Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints. They all mean the same thing, so choose one and make it your stargazing rule.
If you’re going out on your own for stargazing, be sure to open the latest Night Sky Tourist podcast episode. The last segment gives you a tour of the night sky for that week. I help you identify constellations and planets and share some fun facts and star stories. The monthly newsletters include what to see in the night sky for the current month, so be sure to sign up for those on this website.
Happy night skies, and mind your stargazing manners.