Whidbey Island is a great location to stargaze because it lacks the light pollution of nearby cities and there’s less cloud cover, since it sits in a rain shadow. The night sky over Camp Casey’s central Whidbey location is even darker than other parts of the island, making it a great place to discover the stars.
“Astronomy is a fun and relaxing hobby,” said Bob Scott, president of the Island County Astronomical Society. “After 20 years there are still many things I have yet to see. I’m still discovering the sky.”
One advantage of winter stargazing is it gets dark early. It also gets surprisingly chilly, so dress warmly. Also avoid white light and give your eyes 20 to 30 minutes for to adjust to the darkness.
“Once you ‘dark adapt’ you’ll find you don’t need a flashlight,” said Scott. “When we look at star charts we use red lights, as they don’t ruin your night vision.”
Scott also suggests researching what you want to view. Most of the bright things in the sky are Messier objects and are listed in star charts with “M” followed by a number. There are 110 of these objects, all visible from the Northern Hemisphere.
“Take the kids along and show them the sky,” said Scott. “They’ll get cold quickly, so be prepared for that. They’ll also get bored quickly unless you have lots of things to show them.”
If they’re old enough, teach them how to point and view through a telescope.
“They’ll pick it up very quickly,” he said. “If you don’t have a telescope, you can see many things with binoculars.”
The Island County Astronomical Society has meetings and “star parties” which are open to everyone. To learn more about the night sky, visit http://www.icas-wa.org/. Stargazing may be incorporated into the Camp Casey Conference outdoor package. For more information, visit https://casey.spu.edu/staying-at-camp-casey/packages/#outdoor.
Stargazing photo by 3six0 Designs.