There is nothing like the sense of wonder and feeling of looking into the unknown that fills you when you look up into the night sky. The sense of mystery that comes with stargazing has captured people from the beginning of mankind. With the advances in technology and increased awareness of objects beyond our sky, the stargazing movement has truly accelerated.
Stargazing involves venturing out into an area where stars can be seen clearly and looking carefully, either with your eyes or a telescope. Some people even take magnificent pictures.
Unfortunately, it has become more difficult to visualize stars with the rise of light pollution – brightening of the sky due to artificial light such as street lamps and buildings, which hides the stars and other celestial bodies. But there are still some superb places to see the stars, where light pollution is low and the sky is calm. Here is a list of some of the best places to stargaze in the world.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA
Located near one of the United State’s iconic landmarks, Grand Canyon National Park hosts more than 5 million visitors each year. It was only recently designated as a Dark Sky park due to the excessive light nearby owed to nearby football fields. The vast expanse of the canyon is matched by the vastness of the sky above, and the many stars within. Some travelers describe the view as if you are standing on the outermost surface of Earth, able to touch space.
Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory, North Carolina, USA
Mayland Earth to Sky Park boasts the use of a 360-degree view and a fully functional observatory, equipped with the Sam Scope telescope, which is open to the public. The Sam Scope telescope is the largest in the South Eastern US region.
The surrounding landscape is minimal, allowing gazers to focus on the streaks of stars and patterns of the Milky Way in the night sky. There are also plans to construct a planetarium for further study of other celestial bodies.
Brecon Beacons National Park, UK
Brecon Beacons National Park has been accredited as one of the best locations for viewing Mars and Jupiter, as well as several of Jupiter’s moons (visible through a telescope). There are several viewing points in the reserve, including Sugar Loaf Mountain, which has the darkest skies. Another iconic inhabitant of the reserve is the ruins of the Llanthony Priory, which, when observed with the night sky, set the beauty of man-made buildings and the natural skies side by side.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand
Located in the Southern Hemisphere, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is a wonderful viewing point for Aurora Australis, the Southern Cross, and the Southern Star. Tens of thousands of people visit each year to take night sky tours of Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook. Frequent visitors say that the stars are best seen on a moonless night.
Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve, Canada
Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve was the first-ever park to be declared an International Dark Sky Park in 2007. It has spectacular views of shooting stars, the Northern Lights, and even the Andromeda Galaxy (visible without a telescope). There are also public telescopes that allow visitors to see star clusters and nebulae.