Getaway: Star Watch Tours brings night vision stargazing to Asheville

Star Watch Night Vision Tours creator Dawn Bankson sums up the idea behind her business pretty succinctly: “The ancients used to look up at the sky, but we don’t,” she explains.  At it’s core, that’s what Star Watch is, a chance to look up at the sky.

Of course, Star Watch adds a small twist to that rather ordinary experience: $3,500 night vision goggles. According to Bankson, Star Watch is one of only a handful of night vision tours of its kind in the country, and the difference between looking at the night sky with the naked eye and looking at it through the goggles is something like going from looking at a room through a keyhole to looking at it through a window.

In a patch of sky where the naked eye might see 100 stars, the goggles illuminate thousands. Dim points of light are suddenly larger and brighter. Shooting stars that you couldn’t see at all otherwise, streak across the sky with near astounding regularity. Satellites occasionally come into view, and then fade as the sun’s light reflects elsewhere. The experience is awe-inspiring, even for those who never give the sky above their heads a second thought.

Tickets are $60, and the tour departs late in the evening from downtown. Tour guides from Star Watch give guests a rundown on the equipment before departing, and then it’s off to various high points outside of town to get the tour started, sci-fi music playing over the stereo to set the mood.

Once at a star-gazing spot, chairs and blankets are unloaded, goggles are passed out, and for the next few hours, the sky does the rest.

Each tour is a bit different, partly based on weather and viewing conditions at the various locations Star Watch takes its guests, and partly based on the interests of the guests themselves. “Everyone has their own reason for wanting to look up, we provide the tools,” says Bankson.

Some of Star Watch’s guests are UFO believers; some are Biblical astronomers; some are simply curious. Invariably, each sees whatever they want to see. The UFO folks see alien spacecraft where some might see only satellites. The Biblical astronomers see the divine hand where some might see the only science. The curious watch, dream, and imagine.

You can find more information about Star Watch Tours, by visiting their website.


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