Last night, my friend Rebecca and I headed east in order to spot the Perseides meteor shower. Now that we have gone all of twice, I wrote a list of things to take and not to take while stargazing.
First of all: Get away from the city. Rebecca and I drove to an unlit field between Duvall and Carnation.
1) Bring an open mind about what you are going to see.
Between the moon light earlier in the night and the mist that rolled in off the hills, we only saw the brightest of them. We could be moping about the presides or watch Jupiter rise following the moon. We looked at craters of the moon through the binoculars (Waning Gibbous 64%)
As we scaled the night sky upwards from the horizon, we found Polaris, Lyra and the Cygnus Constellation. Since it was right above us, the moon did not effect it as much and so we watched the minor meteor shower of Kappa Cygnids. Maybe 3 an hour or so, plus the occasional satellite.
2) Wear warm clothing: I wore base layer, long johns, jeans, t-shirt, long sleeve t, fleece, windbreaker with hood, ski cap, Rebecca wore something similar, but added fleece pants. Even the dogs wore gear. Tycho wore his snow jacket, Rosie wore her t-shirt and snow jacket. Note: I do not regularly dress my dogs. They each have jackets for snow and Rosie has a single baby t-shirt because she had stitches a while back and we needed to cover them.
Also we had a sleeping bag and additional blanket–next time we need one more blanket. You wouldn’t think an 8lb dog would take up so much room, but Rosie claimed the warm spot. As we heard coyotes, Tycho stood guard for a hour, but eventually decided it was too cold to keep watch. He went under the covers too.
3) Binoculars and camera– for the next time I am also bringing my tripod as it is hard to focus in on planets– even one as large a Jupiter–when you are shivering.
4) Starwalk on my I-pad but there is also google sky, or for the old timey paper star charts with rising times.
5) Popcorn, Mint Oreos, Grapefruit Izze — next time, I might also bring cocoa.
Things not to take:
1) Issues with personal space or someone you might have issues with or someone that your significant other would have issues with or etc. At this point, Rebecca and I have figured that a major part of enjoying astronomy –at least in Seattle–is sitting close and snuggling under blankets. Since I’m married that means star gazing trips are with my girlfriends and dogs. (Sorry, guys. You can come but when you get cold, you will go have to find a coyote to snuggle with. Don’t worry it sounded like there were plenty out there. I also know a slug that likes to climb in shoes!)
2) Alcohol. We are hanging out in a field in the middle of the night. It’s natural to get sleepy. Alcohol will make you sleepier. Plus we always practice Leave no Trace principles and still have to drive home. Just don’t do it.
3) A bad attitude, grumpiness, impatience, etc. If you stop staring at the stars to read a book, play with your I-pad: you will lose your night vision and miss what you came to see.
Have a good time.
(Originally posted on my ZB Blog with a few photos of the trip.)