Many people find that one of the best things about summer nights is that they are warm enough to sit outside yet offer a refreshing cool from the heat of midday. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling of laying on a blanket on a grassy lawn or sitting in a comfy chair in the backyard underneath the moonlit sky and gazing up at the stars. Yet, stars are out all year round and their magnificence is ever changing with the seasons, yet constant.
There are reasons why stargazing has been a natural pastime of many for thousands of years and why astronomy one of the oldest natural sciences. It is well-recognized that taking the time be in nature is important for human health; in fact a study published in Scientific Reports confirms that spending at least two hours a week in nature can lead to better health and wellbeing.
But what about nature time at night? Does it provide similar benefits, even in the dark? Researchers set to find out and published their findings in the European Journal of Ecopsychology. Participants in the study cited several wellbeing benefits. For example, participants experienced different “spiritual and transcendent emotions” such as feelings of peace, intrigue, beauty and fascination.
Perhaps one of the best benefits of stargazing is the feeling of “getting lost” in your own backyard. Stargazers have reported that they can lose a sense of time while staring up at the sky, which of course is a great feeling, particularly at the end of a stressful day.
So how to get started?
Get comfortable: Be sure to dress for the weather such as bringing an extra sweatshirt if the temperature is expected to dip, blankets for laying on if you choose, and some drinks and snacks. Also, stargazing doesn’t need to be a silent activity! While you need to be mindful of your sleeping neighbors, you can still add the perfect soundtrack to your stargazing. If you need inspiration, streaming services like Spotify and iTunes offer on-theme playlists and albums.
Find your guide: Of course, the moon is the easiest to spot. But if you want to go a bit deeper, there are plenty of available resources that can help illuminate what you’re looking at. For example, the American Astronomical Society offers free guides available for download. There are also several smartphone apps that can help as well.
Grab a pair of binoculars: For those just starting out with backyard stargazing, a big fancy telescope is not required – a pair of binoculars is a great place to start. If you don’t already own a pair, Space.com put together a list of their recommendations.
So, if you need a break from watching the “stars” on screens, simply step outside and look up to find the bigger and brighter stars in real life.
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