Exploring Night Skies - Where to Stargaze
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A whole new world comes alive at night and is waiting to be explored. When you head out at night to stargaze, take your family or friends with you, be prepared for a cool night, and let your eyes adjust to the wonder above. Below are some recommendations from our friends at the National Park Service to make your experience memorable and #BringHomeaStory!
Where to Stargaze
In Your Backyard
- Sleep in your backyard on a starlit night. Watch the stars and planets move across the night sky.
- Make a red flashlight. Use red paper or cellophane to cover a white flashlight. This will help you navigate at night without compromising your night vision!
- Can you see the stars as well in your backyard with the porch light on? Try different light bulbs, even different light fixtures, so that you can see the stars better. Warm, amber colors are soft on the eyes.
Acadia National Park, Maine (Paul Rutherford, Share the Experience)
Around Your Town
- From an open field or park, find the Big Dipper. The last two stars in the cup of the Big Dipper point to the North Star, which is just a bit dimmer than the individual stars in the Big Dipper.
- Attend your local astronomy club's next public "star party." There you can find amateur astronomers sharing views through their telescopes.
- Next time you are riding in a car, look closely at the outdoor lights. Do some shine in your eyes more than others? Can you find a light that only shines downward?
In the Wilderness
- Look for the Milky Way stretching across the night sky. What looks like a faint cloud is actually the light from millions and millions of distant stars. The Milky Way is our home galaxy and is best seen in summer and fall evening skies.
- If the full moon is up, the Milky Way will be hard to see. Try going for a night hike instead! Let your eyes adjust to the moonlight and keep your flashlight turned off (but available for safety if needed).
Big Cypress National Reserve, Florida
In a National Park
- Camp under the stars! What better way to experience the great outdoors than camping in a national park under a star-filled sky?
- National parks are great places to get to know the animals that are nocturnal—wildlife that is awake at night and asleep during the day. Sit quietly and listen for these creatures.
- Many national parks offer night sky programs, from telescope astronomy events to full moon walks with rangers. The following, partial list of parks aims to give a head start in your search. Other parks also have night sky programs, so be sure to check with your park if you are interested. An asterisk* denotes those parks certified by the International Dark Sky Association as dark sky destinations:
Acadia National Park
Arches National Park
Badlands National Park
Big Bend National Park*
Big Cypress National Preserve*
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park*
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park*
Capitol Reef National Park*
Capulin Volcano National Monument*
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument*
Chaco Culture National Historical Park*
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve*
Death Valley National Park*
Dinosaur National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Grand Canyon National Park*
Great Basin National Park*
Hovenweep National Monument*
Joshua Tree National Park*
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mojave National Preserve
Natural Bridges National Monument*
Obed Wild and Scenic River*
Olympic National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Pinnacles National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument*
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Voyageurs National Park
Big Bend National Park, Texas (Matthew Woodworth, Share the Experience)
Find a park near you with Recreation.gov!
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