October 5, 2013
Check Out That Night Sky
Recently, while checking out the redOrbit main site, I came across a really great article about stargazing and vacations. So often, people vacation to cities or other places with serious light pollution. Light pollution is just what it sounds like – pollution from the lights of the city that prevents stargazing and other night sights. We all like to visit the fun cities and experience the city life, even if we already live in one. But I argue, as does Lee Rannals of redOrbit, that perhaps we should look to vacate to places where we can see more than just the city life. Let’s get out to see what the night sky has to offer.
So, thanks to Lee, here are some of the best stargazing sites, nationally and internationally. Let’s start with the international suggestions.
1) Aoraki MacKenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand
According to 100% Pure New Zealand website, which is the tourism website for the country:
“Aoraki Mackenzie is a gold-rated dark sky reserve, in recognition of the quality of the almost light-pollution-free skies of the Mackenzie Basin.
The dark sky reserve is located in the Mackenzie Basin, in the South Island of New Zealand, and includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.
The 4300sq km area is bounded by a spectacular alpine landscape with the Southern Alps in the west, and the Two Thumb Range in the east.”
2) NamibRand International Dark Sky Reserve, Namibia
In 2012, the Huffington Post best described the NamibRand International Dark Sky Reserve best. Accordingly, “The NamibRand Nature Reserve, a private nature reserve in southern Namibia, has gotten the stamp of approval to become an official night sky reserve — a spot supremely suited for some of the best stargazing on Earth…The sprawling park, which covers more than 600 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of the southern African country, is home to some of the darkest skies yet measured, according to a statement from the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization that certifies “starlight reserves” around the world.”
3) Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
The final international spot suggested in the article for incredible stargazing is Galloway Forest Park, Scotland. As that park’s website explains, “Situated in the heart of Galloway, southern Scotland, the Galloway Forest Park managed by Forestry Commission Scotland offers spectacular views and a diversity of dramatic scenery. Three hundred square miles of wild beauty are waiting to be explored, here, in Britain’s largest forest park.”
Beyond these three international hot spots, the redOrbit article also identified several national places to get away from that light pollution.
- Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
- Death Valley National Park, California
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
I have actually spent time enjoying the night sky in the first five of these, and I have plans to get back to each soon. Each one has its own power and beauty, but I must say that Big Bend National Park really had the most impressive, awesome views. Truly, this park’s night sky is sublime.
So often we think about what is right in front of us when we vacation. Rarely do we look up. Maybe soon, we can all take a night-sky vacation to one of these wonderful locations, either state side or globally. I know I will.
Image Credit: peresanz / Shutterstock