AS THE PAJARITO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER’S (PEEC) planetarium manager, Elizabeth Watts leads stargazing and full moon hikes that teach people how to enjoy our skies after dark. “One of my goals is to encourage people to go out and see the actual night sky,” she says.

➤ Find someplace far from lights. Even moonlight can interfere with your view of the stars. Go out on a night when the moon isn’t up or isn’t full. “If the moon is up, look at it,” Watts says. “People are amazed at the shadows cast by the full moon.”

➤ Give your eyes time to adjust. “It can take 20 to 40 minutes to fully adjust to the dark,” she says. “If you feel like you need a light, use a dim red light. It doesn’t destroy your night vision.”

➤ Get comfortable. Along with a planisphere (an analog star chart) and binoculars, Watts recommends a chair, a blanket, and dressing in layers.

➤ Seek out obvious star formations. “The Big Dipper is one you can see all times of year,” Watts says. “It helps us find the direction north as well.”

➤ Make up your own tales. “Look up at the stars and find pictures like you might in the clouds and tell a story about what you see,” Watts suggests. “Start by finding your initial in the sky.”

➤ Get oriented first. “The PEEC planetarium is great for orienting people and showing them where they might look for things in the actual sky,” says Watts.

Read more: New Mexico’s wide-open spaces, minimal light pollution, high altitudes, and beautiful climate mean we enjoy out-of-this-world night skies.