If only you knew what light pollution had taken away from us. As a stargazer, if I look up to the sky, it just makes me feel disappointed because the light pollution has made it impossible to view stars from the naked eye. Have you ever seen the night sky during a power outage? It looks stunning! The stars alone shine enough to light up an entire city. Today, we can only spot as many stars in the night sky as we can count on our fingertips.
While not being able to see the night sky does sadden me, I find comfort in knowing that all the stars are still there and if someone magically flips off the switch of entire worlds electricity supply, these stars would be shining down on us as they once did on our ancestors.
Milky Way is our home; it is the galaxy in which our solar system has lived for billions of years. It is so extended that we can see the spiral with our naked eye if there isn’t too much light pollution in the sky. However, given the current state of light pollution, it is impossible to witness the Milky Way in its full glory until and unless you go to one of the few places that are preserved by the governments for stargazing.
All the stargazers know that there are observatories across the globe that are built for research in the field of astronomy. These observatories are mostly built in areas away from the city so that light pollution doesn’t become a hindrance in the research. They are heaven for stargazers because they can visit these places and enjoy the night sky in its full glory with their telescopes or binoculars. You can stay there and watch the stars all night; you can even name a star after someone. Read below to find out about seven places where you can see the beautiful spirals of the Milky Way.
Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania
This place is a haven for stargazers. Cherry Springs Park is located on top of a mountain, and the weather is always kind of chilly. Therefore, I recommend you wear warm clothes. There is a designated space for the stargazers known as Night Sky Viewing area. A backlit map is available on the path to the public activity area of the park. If you’re a beginner, you can seek a guide’s help and they will teach you the basics of stargazing, like star hopping etc. Cherry Springs State Park also has Astro-cabins and lodgings that can be reserved for the purpose of staying.
The Chaco Culture Dark Sky Park
Located in New Mexico, this beautiful park is designated to stargazing. Chaco has been a place for stargazing enthusiasts since centuries, and it has committed to preserving the night sky with such dedication that it has become a gold-tier member of the International Dark-Sky Association otherwise known as IDA. The outdoor lighting in this park is minimal and meets the standards of IDA. On the days when meteor showers are active, you can see the falling stars with the naked eye.
Big Bend National Park
This park is located in North America and it is known to have the least light pollution among the National Park units in all states. Entering into this park and looking at the Milky Way galaxy shining down at you, it is not unusual to feel like you have been transported to a world that existed ages ago. This place has minimal outdoor lighting and you are recommended to carry a red light to adjust your eyes to the darkness. A lot of people camp here for the sole purpose of stargazing at night. The only lights that you’ll find installed there are the red LED lights.
This particularly morbid name belongs to a desert valley that is located in California. It is one of the hottest places on Earth. The Death Valley National Park; however, offers breathtakingly beautiful night sky to look at around the year. If you visit the Death Valley, I recommend that you start stargazing from Harmony Borax Works because it is pretty close to the Visitor Centre and offers minimum view obstruction down to the mountains in Park.
If that doesn’t satisfy you, reach out to the Ubehebe Crater because it is known to have the darkest skies in the entire Park. The Death Valley was third to get the IDA certification for dark skies.
Galloway Forest Park
Scotland bears this amazing park where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of over 7000 planets and stars from the naked eye. The park is spread on an area of 75,000 hectares. If you captured your photo in a dark room, on the Sky Quality Meter that ranges from 0 to 25, it would be 24. Guess what the SQM of this forest park is? It is tested to be between 21 to 23.6. It means that Galloway offers the darkest skies of all time.
Paranal Observatory is situated in Chile and it is considered as one of the flagship observatories of European lands. Several discoveries were made at this observatory, and it’s equipped with the best instruments for studying the skies. It is also a perfect place to watch the dark skies for a stargazer. You can enjoy guided tours at this observatory on the weekends. However, transport is not provided to tourists, so you’ll have to bear that in mind.
NamibRand Nature Reserve
This reserve has a geographical advantage bestowed upon it by nature. That is because the skies in this region are naturally quite dark. It is located in Namibia and that makes it the first and only dark sky reserve of Africa. Since the areas surrounding the reserve are not densely populated, it creates a pool of darkness in this region and allows for a quality experience of stargazing. So, are you willing to hitchhike your way to the heart of Namibia to savor the breathtaking views of the night sky?
There you go, a stargazer’s list of destinations. Enjoy your trips and obviously, make sure you take the full set of gear from home. A hint, you can also add hiking, camping and bird watching gear in your backpack, traveling through nature is always surprising and you don’t know when you need some. In case you don’t have such devices at hand, you can check a thorough guide found here to discover some magnificent and magnifying products.