CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A West Virginia veteran and astrophotographer is working to spread the joys of star gazing with fellow veterans in order to help them with PTSD.
You might remember Bill Stewart of Ceredo from coverage of the massive fireball (and the loud boom that followed it), which he caught on camera earlier this month. Stewart is also the man behind the Astro Seabees, a stargazing and astrophotography group that gets people together to enjoy nights under the stars so they can forget their worries and get lost in the cosmos.
“It’s certainly hard to dwell on the past or even the uncertain future when you’re looking up at the night sky and you’re totally being in the moment,” Stewart said. “That’s a good place to be, especially if you struggle with things like PTSD.”
Stewart said he first realized star-gazing could settle the mind when he was serving in the military near Ramadi, Iraq. Even in a hostile region full of sand and with little to no greenery, he said he was able to look up at the night sky and take in its beauty.
“Stargazing is not going to be for everyone, but it works with the majority of people,” Stewart said. “We’ve long been fascinated with space. It’s long sparked creativity and culture. Think of all the things we’ve done in the name of space exploration, in the name of astronomy.”
To get started in star-gazing, Stewart says all you need to do is look up and take in the night sky. However, if you want to get into astrophotography (taking pictures of the night sky and celestial bodies), Stewart says many cell phones today have the ability to take pictures in low light.
However, if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of deep-sky objects, Stewart holds what he calls “star parties,” where he will travel to areas with low light pollution and set up telescopes that can be used to observe and take pictures of celestial bodies.
“We’re able to just get to know each other and bring those barriers down, and I think that’s where the real therapy begins,” Stewart said. “It’s a lot easier to talk with other veterans than it is to talk to someone in a stuffy office somewhere. The lights are off and you’re not really visualizing someone, you’re not looking them in the face and feeling forced to talk about things that you don’t want to talk about.”
For updates on his upcoming star-watching gatherings, you can follow Astro Seabee on Facebook.