Lightscape / Night Sky

Green-tinted photo of the Milky Way, a meteor, and some trees in silhouette against the sky.
Chiricahua is a great place to stargaze. Keep your eyes open for meteors!

NPS/ C. Bubar

Have you looked up lately and counted the stars? Chances are, if you live in or near a big city, you can only see a few of the millions of stars and planets that fill the night sky. Light pollution can obscure all but the very brightest stars, and most cities do not control excess or unnecessary night lighting. When you venture out into more uninhabited areas, the night sky comes alive with an uncountable number of stars. The Chiricahua Mountains are in an area of spectacular, dark night skies. Some of the world's largest telescopes are located on nearby mountains for just this reason.

People have always looked to the stars - whether to navigate, to worship, or to mark the passage of time or season - it seems a timeless way to dream about and ponder at the vastness of the universe. A visit to the monument is not complete without looking skyward into the dark night sky!

Natural night skies, unhampered by light pollution, are an important resource the National Park Service strives to protect. Plants and animals (and humans) have evolved over millions of years to life with dark nights and bright days. When our eyes are exposed to bright lights at night, especially LED lights with a blue hue, our normal rhythms are disrupted. Exposure to light at night for humans can cause health problems. Light at night for animals turns night into day, with consequences for migratory birds, predator/prey relationships, and population sizes. Luckily, light pollution is completely reversible, unlike some of the other human-caused pollutions. See how you can limit light pollution today!

Chiricahua National Monument is always open, so come experience dark night skies from Massai Point, Echo Canyon Trailhead, or even the campground. For really dark night skies, plan your visit to avoid the full moon. Check our calendar to see if any night sky programs will be happening when you visit.
Special light pollution imaging that shows artificial light. Special light pollution imaging that shows all light sources.
Tuscon, Phoenix, and Las Cruces are the three primary light domes visible in the image. This imaging only shows artificial light pollution, so it's easy to get a sense of how dark our skies are. NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division
All light sources (natural and artificial) are included in this image. Notice the Milky Way arching over the Sugarloaf Fire Lookout. NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division

Special night sky imaging of only artificial light sources. Special night sky imaging of all light sources.
Experience the night sky from Massai Point, where very few light pollution sources mar your dark sky. NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division
The Milky Way produces a lot of natural light at Massai Point. NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division

Special night sky imaging that shows lots of light pollution over Golden Gate NRA.
Compare Chiricahua's dark night skies to those over Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California. Over 80% of Americans live where they experience "Sky Glow" at night. About one third of the world's population lives in a place where they can no longer see the Milky Way. Luckily, light pollution is completely reversible!

NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division

Last updated: October 11, 2018

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12856 E Rhyolite Creek Rd
Willcox, AZ 85643


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