The Most Amazing Places to go Stargazing
How many of us spent our childhood summer nights lying in the grass and staring up at the stars? If we were lucky, we might have even caught a meteor or two as they whizzed by. These days, the increase in light pollution is making it increasingly difficult to see all of the wonders of the night sky. There is still some great stargazing to be done, however, if you know where to go. The following are some of the most amazing stargazing spots in the country…
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania: One of the darkest spots east of the Mississippi River, this stargazing hotspot in North Central Pennsylvania became a Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park in 2008. Cherry Springs is also one of the few places where you can have a look at our galaxy’s nucleus. Although there is a designated viewing area, insiders tell of a viewing area across from the park’s observation field that is always open.
Natural Bridges National Park, Utah: If you are anywhere in the Southwest and away from city lights, it’s a sure bet that conditions are ripe for stargazing. Natural Bridges, located in Southeastern Utah, became the first park in the United States to be certified as an International Dark Sky Park. Skies here are labeled Bortle Class 2; this means that, in addition to stars and meteor showers, stargazers will also have a spectacular view of the Milky Way, as well as zodiacal light (a faint particle band that runs east to west across the sky) and a phenomenon known as airglow, a mysterious glowing in the upper atmosphere.
Big Bend National Park, Texas: Located along the border with Mexico in Southwest Texas, Big Bend National Park achieved its certification as a Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park in 2011, thanks to efforts by the park’s staff to reduce or eliminate light pollution in the area. Visitors can expect to see as many as 2,000 stars with the naked eye.
Death Valley National Park, California: Of the 3.4 million acres that make up Death Valley National Park, 91% has been declared designated wilderness, off-limits to development. This makes it ideal for stargazing, particularly between November and April, when the temperatures are cooler and park rangers conduct night sky programs.
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska: Visitors to this park have the added treat of observing the colorful Aurora Borealis, making Denali a top item on everyone’s bucket list. Fall, Winter and early Spring, when the nights are longer, are the best times to visit.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea’s observatory sits atop a dormant volcano over 13,000 feet above sea level. A tropical inversion cloud shields Mauna Kea from the humid air below, creating ideal stargazing conditions.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico: In addition to the spectacular night sky, Chaco Culture is filled with ancient Pueblo architecture, creating a magical backdrop for stargazing. Chaco Culture achieved International Dark Sky Park Gold Certification in 2013.