‘Looking Up’: Exploring Night Skies and Astro-Tourist Sensory Experiences

Slater, Deborah Anne and Stone, Philip orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9632-1364 (2024) ‘Looking Up’: Exploring Night Skies and Astro-Tourist Sensory Experiences. In: Sensory Tourism: Senses and Sense-scapes Encompassing Tourism Destinations. Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Boston, USA. (In Press)

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What appears an eternal and unchanging night sky, many of the stars that sparkle have already died. Yet, when we look up, a transcendental astral experience awaits us as our senses attempt to capture our ethereal existence. However, exploring stargazing within the visitor economy and the ‘astro-tourist’ experience that draws upon sensory perceptions has hitherto been neglected. The aim of our conceptual chapter, therefore, is to address this gap within scholarship and to offer a theoretical blueprint that identifies the nature of astro-tourism and the parameters of astro-tourist experiences. This includes the significance of the senses and its interplay with spirituality, as well as dynamic placemaking between outer-space embodiment and existentialism. We argue astro-tourism relies less on physical places but on placelessness and specific sensory dimensions. Indeed, looking up at the night sky includes a tri-partite relationship between the dark, space, and the senses. It is these sensorial aspects that give significance to the astro-tourist experience and its out-of-this-world sensory-scape. In turn, by ‘looking up’ at the night sky and all its celestial wonders, it offers us an embodied tourist experience which can awaken a certain reverence, but the stars will forever remain inaccessible.

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