I crashed my first star party!
Most people have never heard of a star party, so let me set the scene. The Iowa Star Party is a weekend gathering of people all curious about the cosmos. Dark skies improve long range visibility, so to avoid light pollution, the middle of nowhere is ideal. As I arrived to the Whiterock Conservancy Star Field, there were different camp sites lined up, each with 1-3 telescopes setup. The astronomy equipment ranged from homemade to expensive and I enjoyed learning more about astrophotography. It was nice having a friendly host (Cheers Sinclair!) who had our camp on point, excellent equipment, and knew how to effectively lock into endless celestial objects. During the afternoon, you could tell everyone was just waiting for the evening sky to roll around. We sipped on some brews, went on a hike, listened to a talk from an astronomy professor, won the raffle prize, and then the heavenly show began!
Welcome back to school! This week’s episode of You Don’t Need This Podcast features a caffeinated conversation with a special guest who spent 20 years in the classroom and is now redefining retirement. Enjoy!
Our first stop was a setting crescent moon. It’s hard to align a smartphone’s three lens camera into the sensitive eye piece of a telescope, but it’s not impossible. Objects are a kabillion miles away and everything is always moving so the photos aren’t great, but I enjoy trying to trap time in creative ways. I also captured nightlapse footage and while it may be amateur hour, my short highlight video is entertaining and it leads me to my first observation. Different people enjoy the moment in different ways, but when content creation is habitual, extending an experience becomes an option. Capturing those photos/video is required, but the extra effort shines through a willingness to review, edit, and stitch things together so it can be enjoyed and not just lost in a mountain of media.
My second observation is that we are all weird. Not an alienating type of weird, but a weird that challenged the status quo and what it means to be normal. Normal is boring and as I listened to the experience and passion of veteran star gazers, I’m reminded how easy it is to find a tribe of people who care about almost anything. This level of nerdery is inspiring and can be found no matter the focus, so never stop exploring.
The third observation is through the lens of pure wonder. It’s hard not to be astonished by countless stars surrounding you. I’ve enjoyed many cosmic experiences, such as this trip to Lowell Observatory in Arizona, but I had never felt the spherical movement in our night’s sky or seen the nebulosity of our Milky Way. Along with staring up into the seemingly infinite universe, looking through a telescope never got old. I saw Saturn’s rings, multiple moons and colored bands of Jupiter, meteors, satellite trains, binary stars, globular clusters like M13, and distance galaxies that blur like eraser marks on speckled black paper.
I thought I’d feel more spiritual throughout the evening’s exploration, but it was more fun, relaxing, creative, and scientific. While I have more thoughts on many fronts and I look forward to doing this again, my last observation is more of a hypothesis. Space is for everyone and I believe almost anyone would enjoy an experience like this.
Forget the social media facade that is Threads. My first BlueSky post (web3) landed while I was at this star party, right before we crashed at 3AM.