There’s nothing quite like lying under the stars on a clear night, watching as they wheel across the sky. For many people, stargazing is a cherished pastime.
And what’s not to love? It’s free, it doesn’t require any special equipment or knowledge, and there’s no age limit. Whether you’re 5 or 85, anyone can go stargazing and appreciate the wonders of the night sky.
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What Makes for Great Stargazing?
There are a few qualities that make a location ideal for stargazing:
- Clear skies: This one is pretty obvious. If there’s a lot of cloud cover, you won’t be able to see much of anything.
- Dark skies: Once the sun goes down, you want the sky to get nice and dark so you can really see the stars shining bright. That means there should be no artificial light around, like from streetlights or buildings.
- Low light pollution: Along the same lines as dark skies, you want an area with very little light pollution. Light pollution is any artificial light that’s visible in the night sky. It can come from things like nearby cities and factories.
In North America, there are many great places to go stargazing. Here are just a few of the best:
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of the best places for stargazing in North America. The park is located on an island off the coast of Maine, and it’s known for its dark skies.
Sand Beach faces the southern part of the sky and features a beautiful view, since any light pollution is blocked.
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park is another great place for stargazing. The park is far from major cities, so it has very little light pollution.
There are plenty of open spaces to set up a telescope or just lie on the ground and look up.
3. Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. The park has very dark skies and is home to the Dusty Star Observatory.
There are also plenty of great hiking trails where you can get away from the lights of the nearby towns and really enjoy the stars.
4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina
Another fantastic location for star gazing is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park has clear skies and hosts an Observatory, which makes it ideal for stargazing.
There are also a lot of hiking routes that will allow you to get away from the illumination of neighboring communities.
5. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Mauna Kea is one of the best places in the world for stargazing and is home to the world’s largest observatory.
The summit of Mauna Kea is nearly 14,000 feet above sea level and offers stunning views of the night sky. If you want to experience some amazing stargazing, Mauna Kea is the place to go.
6. Joshua Tree National Park, California
If you want to go stargazing in California, Joshua Tree National Park is the place to be. The park has clear skies and very little light pollution, making it ideal for seeing the stars.
There are also plenty of hiking trails where you can get away from any artificial lights.
7. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Great Sand Dunes National Park is a certified International Dark Sky Park, making it one of the best places in North America for stargazing. You can even see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
8. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park is another great place for stargazing. The park typically has very clear skies and due to the remote area, there’s very little light pollution.
You can also find a number of dark sky events being held throughout the year.
9. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best places for stargazing on the East Coast. The park is located in a remote area and has very dark skies.
There is a Night Sky Public Viewing Area where you can get a 360-degree view of the sky.
10. Denali National Park, Alaska
For a chance to see Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, Denali National Park is the place to go. The Northern Lights are caused by the interaction of solar particles and the Earth’s atmosphere and are best seen in areas with little light pollution.
Denali National Park is one of the darkest places in North America and offers stunning views of the night sky.
Want to make the most of your stargazing experience? Here are a few tips to help you out:
1. Dress for the occasion
Stargazing can be a chilly activity, especially if you’re doing it in the middle of winter. Be sure to dress warmly in layers so you can stay comfortable.
2. Bring a blanket or chair
Stargazing is a great activity to do with friends or family, but it can be tough to stay in one spot for long periods of time. Bring a blanket or chair so you can relax and really take in the experience.
3. Use binoculars or a telescope
If you want to get a closer look at the stars, be sure to bring along binoculars or a telescope. This can really enhance your experience and help you spot things you might not be able to see with the naked eye.
4. Check the weather forecast
You’ll want to check the weather forecast before you head out stargazing. If it’s going to be cloudy, you likely won’t be able to see much. However, if the forecast is clear, you’re in for a treat!
5. Bring a red light
Red lights don’t affect your night vision like white lights do. This makes them perfect for use while stargazing. Be sure to bring a red flashlight or wear red clothing so you don’t ruin your night vision.
6. Give yourself time to adjust
It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Once they have, you’ll be able to see so much more!
7. Know what you’re looking for
If you want to find specific constellations or planets, it helps to know what you’re looking for. There are plenty of apps and books that can help you out.
8. Step away from the city
One of the best things about stargazing is getting away from the bright lights of the city. If you can, try to find a spot that’s far away from any light pollution. This will give you the best view of the stars.
9. Be patient
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see anything right away. It can take some time to really get a good look at the stars. Just be patient and keep looking up!
10. Have fun!
Stargazing is a great activity for all ages. Be sure to relax and have fun while you’re doing it!
There are many great places for stargazing in North America. Stargazing is an incredible way to connect with the universe and experience the beauty of the night sky. So get out there and start exploring!
Have you ever gone stargazing? Where are your favorite spots to view the night sky?