We had the good fortune of connecting with Aric Vyhmeister and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aric, what are you inspired by?
We live at such a unique time in history. In my professional life as a classical musician I’m surrounded by stories and ideas on a regular basis, both through the art itself and the amazing people that share music with the world. But another avenue of inspiration for me comes by way of an earlier chapter in my life and a previous career as an aerospace engineer – the incredible advances in science that deepen our understanding of the world and our tiny place in the cosmos. The bigger and clearer our picture of the universe becomes, the smaller we are, which I think is a really beautiful idea to grapple with. Without some sort of intrinsic meaning to life handed to us by the universe, what we do with our precious short time becomes so much more important.
For me, learning that our Sun is a third generation star made up of material from older stars, or that the elements that make up living matter and the ground we stand on can only be created in the death of other stars adds a foundation of mystery and intrigue to life, a truly profound context to our planetary bubble of existence. It casts a new light on everyday life when you start recognizing that everything is stardust. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, the best way to cope with the vastness of space is to celebrate the closeness of people. That’s inspiring.
Standley Lake Stargazing was founded to help spread the wonder and awe of the world we live in through community science programs and local star parties. Whether showing Saturn’s rings through a telescope or sharing discoveries in cosmology with a new audience, it’s our belief that the universe is a beautiful place that everyone deserves to hear about.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Standley Lake Stargazing differs from more conventional astronomy clubs in a few ways. In addition to hosting traditional star parties – public viewing sessions where anyone can look through a telescope – most of our volunteers also have engineering/STEM careers and a fascination with spaceflight which allows for discussion of a wider range of space-related topics. We all share a desire to encourage people’s natural curiosity and continue exploring the incredible world around them. It’s less about teaching technical subjects and more about celebrating the poetry of life through both explanations of modern cosmological findings and the visceral thrill of looking at distant celestial objects through a telescope, often for the first time.
There are unique challenges when it comes to talking about space and cosmology in our public talks, of which there are now over 50 and still counting. Often the subject matter can be dense and counterintuitive, so the joy for me as an educator is to find the spark that draws me in to a topic, then find a way to package that in a way that doesn’t rely too heavily on jargon or prerequisite knowledge while trying not to lose the essence of awe. This approach works equally well in teaching music (which is equally esoteric in its own right) to different levels, but I’ve found it rewarding to practice a teaching strategy in two different areas.
At the end of the day, myself and the great volunteers who help run Standley Lake Stargazing want to share a positive experience through the catalyst of space and astronomy, and spread the wonder and awe of being alive at this moment in time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Denver has so much to choose from, but I’d suggest getting out of the city to the nearby Rocky Mountains and surrounding foothills for some truly breathtaking views only a short drive from city limits. If you have the time for an overnight camp trip, check out some of the more remote areas at least an hour from Denver for some incredibly dark and clear night skies. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place to visit both for the scenery and dark skies overnight. There’s never a shortage of outdoor and urban activities in Colorado, you’ll have a great time wherever you go!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Standley Lake Stargazing wouldn’t exist without the guidance and encouragement of Sean Eads, Ron Havermann, Tonia Robinson, Alfredo Cruz and the ongoing support our local community members – thanks for everything!
Photo and Layout: Aric Vyhmeister Logo: Eric Dobaczewski