For the vast majority of humans, celestial objects besides Earth can only be seen, not touched. On the one hand, this can be off-putting – planets, stars, and nebulae are only distant objects to be passively observed. On the other hand, such visual interaction is easily accessible. With a telescope and a clear night sky, one can gaze at the heavens from one’s own backyard. One can travel lightyears (visually) without having to leave home. To learn more about stargazing’s appeal, we spoke to Tom Urbain. He is an avid stargazer and manages the website StarLust.org.
What are your favorite space objects to observe?
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are among my favorite celestial objects to observe. When I look at them through my telescope, I’m amazed by the fact that I can get a clear glimpse of them from my backyard. Don’t get me wrong – galaxies and nebulae are incredible sights, too, but the planets offer an almost real-time view. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the rings of Saturn and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
Why did you start your website on stargazing?
I have been obsessed with space from a very young age! I used to watch space movies that were definitely not meant to be seen by 12-year-olds, like Ridley Scott’s Alien. This passion kept growing as I grew up. Creating my website was a way for me to share my passion for astronomy and stargazing with likeminded people.
I do a lot of research about astronomy, gathering lots of information and taking lots of notes as I’m learning new things. So the idea came to me to create a website where I could share what I’ve learned and my experiences in the field. The goal of my website is to help anyone wanting to stargaze as a regular hobby and offer answers to any questions they might have. The learning curve can be pretty steep in this hobby, and the deeper you go into it, the more technical knowledge you need. I have been there myself, and I know what it’s like.
Through this site, I get to share my passion with others and put my knowledge on paper. This has helped me become a much better amateur astronomer these past three years.
What advice do you have for people getting started in astronomy?
My first piece of advice would be to join a local astronomy club because there’s nothing better for nurturing a growing interest than to share it with others. There are lots of really nice folks who would be more than happy to share the knowledge and experience they have accumulated over the years.
My second piece of advice would be to purchase a telescope and start exploring the night sky. A six-inch Dobsonian telescope is a great starter telescope that will show you many wonders of the night sky in great detail. Download a stargazing app on your phone to help you find your way around the sky, and you are set for hours of celestial discovery.
My last piece of advice would be to simply enjoy the journey. We live in a very busy world, with thousands of things requiring our attention from the moment we wake up. Astronomy is not just about observing the night sky. It’s also an opportunity to reflect, enjoy some peace, and relax in a quiet environment.