Stars, moons, planets and galaxies became a hot topic after NASA released jaw-dropping new images from the James Webb Space Telescope earlier this summer.
But beyond the occasional release of new space photos, it’s hard to really appreciate the night sky.
“There’s a reason everyone isn’t a stargazer,” said Kenwall Chuck, senior manager of Far Horizons at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. “A hundred years ago, everyone was a stargazer because a hundred years ago [was] Before the flood of outdoor lights. ”
Walczak added that there was a time when everyone could see the Milky Way from their yard — now, it’s more of a challenge. For those who do want to see the Milky Way or other objects in the night sky, there are ways to do it. Here are some great travel destinations to see stars, planets and nebulae, as well as expert stargazing tips.
Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania
“In Pennsylvania, there’s a really famous place here called Cherry Springs State Park,” said lead astronomer Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. “They’re set up specifically for telescope watchers.”
He added that the park has so much equipment for stargazers that if you get there after dark, you’ll see what looks like a drive-in movie parking lot. You’ll find rows separated by columns that serve as power stations for the telescope.
Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station in Hilo, Hawaii
According to Pitts, Mauna Kea is the main astrological location on the Big Island, home to a dedicated summit for astrologers. The destination also features a tourist station where you can get the best views for stargazing.
The station is approximately 9,000 feet in the air And it’s really dark. “They don’t allow any lights there, and all the rest of the lights are on the coast, thousands of feet below you,” Pitts said.
Besides stargazing, the area also Popular place for hiking.
Mark Twain National Forest in Rolla, Missouri
“In general, the entire region of southeastern Missouri is very remote and wonderful,” Walzak said.
Specifically, the Mark Twain National Forest is a great spot for stargazing in the state. You can also go hiking, camping or boating while visiting the area.
Gila National Forest in Silver City, New Mexico
One of Walczak’s favorite stargazing spots is the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.In particular, he recommends visiting Lake Kemado in the National Forest. There, you’ll find a campground at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, allowing you to be high enough in the dark to get a good glimpse of the stars.
Baker Great Basin National Park, Nevada
“Great Basin National Park in Nevada is also an amazing observation site,” Walzak said.
He added that the park is also very supportive of astrotourism, hosting a range of special events and activities throughout the year. You can visit its annual Astronomy Festival in the fall, take a trip to the Nevada Northern Railroad’s Star Orbiter, or view the sky from the park’s on-site solar telescope.
MacDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Fort Davis, Texas
“High in the Guadalupe Mountains is home to the MacDonald Observatory,” said Tracy Knauss, director of astronomy at the George Observatory at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The observatory sits at about 5,600 feet above sea level, making it a beautiful place to view the night sky year-round (and has many light restrictions, so you won’t be interrupted by bright lights when you’re there). If you can, try visiting in October, as you “can see the background of the Milky Way in summer and the rise of the Milky Way in winter,” Knauss points out.
International Dark Sky Park
“These state parks have taken the necessary steps to identify them as ‘dark sky reserves,'” Pitts said.
Known as the International Dark Sky Parks, they include Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Rappahannock County Park in Virginia and Newport State Park in Wisconsin, among others. You can search the list of all park locations (there are over 100) to find one near you. They are all over the United States.
Pitts noted that all locations have rules regarding the use of items such as headlights and flashlights at night, and that no public lighting is allowed. “exist At that location, and probably in an area around that location, they keep the night lighting very low, or they deliberately direct the light down so that it doesn’t obstruct your view of the night sky,” he said .
city night sky place
For those who live in cities, you can also visit City Night Sky Place, a relatively new name, says Walczak. According to the International Dark Sky Association, these designated areas can be “municipal parks, open spaces, observation sites, or other similar properties” close to urban environments that are designed and planned to provide a better stargazing experience.
“He noted that the goal of an urban night sky venue is more about an area dedicated to good lighting, “and accessibility for people living in the city.
He added that any lighting in the area would have to meet the requirements of the International Dark Sky Association, which could include limited brightness and low color temperatures, among other things.
Walczak emphasizes that this provides a unique experience for many city dwellers who are not used to seeing the sky with almost no lights.
Bonus: Northern Lights in Iceland or Canada
Not to mention the ultimate night sky experience: the Northern Lights. Iceland or Canada are ideal places to see the lights, says Knauss.
In particular, Canada’s Yukon Territory is known for its best views of the Northern Lights, and the Heiðmörk Forest near Reykjavik, Iceland is also a great vantage point. In terms of timing, “during the harsh winter months, December to February, come and see it,” Knauss said.
In general, if you want to go stargazing, try to visit places with less light pollution.
The bottom line, according to Lauren Scorzafava, communications manager for the International Dark Sky Association, is that “stargazing is best where there’s no light pollution.” Think: areas that don’t have a lot of artificial light, such as street lights, building lights, and so on.
Walczak adds that you can use an online light pollution map to determine the darkest places near you. “TThe farther he is away from the city lights, the better,” he said.
Avoiding light while stargazing can be a no-brainer, but finding truly dark areas is more complicated than you might think, especially if you live east of the Mississippi River, which Walczak says is difficult because east The population density on the coast is high.
But no matter where you live, you should be able to find a dark spot in your state or region for stargazing.
Proper gear or a little preparation also goes a long way.
Experts also emphasize planning ahead and bringing the proper gear so you can see the most when you observe the night sky.
For starters, buy a good pair of binoculars, Pitts says. “They’re easy to take with you on the go, and binoculars allow you to see more than you can with the naked eye.”
Pitts also recommends having a paper star map, “just in case your phone battery fails or you don’t have internet access, but you still want to be able to orient yourself to the sky.”
It’s also important when you decide to travel. “An observation trip is planned for the first week of the lunar cycle — from new moon to first quarter,” Pitts said. You can find this information by Googling the current lunar cycle.
The same is true for the time of year. “In winter, if you can handle it, the sky is the purest there. Because when it’s colder and the atmosphere is more stable, for example, that makes the stars twinkle,” Walczak said. Overall, winter skies will be clearer with less distortion. (Anytime you go, be sure to check the weather beforehand. “Clear sky maps provide forecast information related to astronomical observations,” Scorzafava said.)
high It’s also a bonus, but not required, Walczak points out. “The higher you are, the less atmosphere you see, so it makes the sky clearer in a way. “
Finally, be sure to give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. Walczak notes that it can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully transition to night vision. During this time, avoid looking at cell phones or other lights.