Stargazing on Your Own

A bristlecone pine under the stars
Bristlecone pine groves, high up in the mountains, are a unique place to go stargazing.

Kelly Carroll

Where To Go

Almost anywhere in the park will provide you with beautiful views of the night sky. Look for somewhere with an open horizon. When the Scenic Drive is open, Mather Overlook is an excellent spot. When the Astronomy Amphiteater is not in use for a program, it too is open for personal stargazing. For lower elevations, try the Baker Archaeological Site near the town of Baker.

If you are not at Great Basin National Park find a dark spot with little lighting, lights pointed at the ground, and no overhead lights. Check out the International Dark-Sky Association for more info on dark places and the best lighting for keeping the night dark.

Doso Doyabi faintly lit by moonlight with the milky way arching through the sky to the left
Doso Doyabi under Moonlight

Tom Auchter

When To Go

Look for a clear, moonless night. A bright moon will obscure fainter objects, so check the moon phase before making plans. Watch the weather forecast and beware of any oncoming storms. Summer nights are the best times to view the Milky Way, but the winter brings its own unique sky though, so don't discount stargazing at any time of the year.

A field of stars surrounds two different galaxies in the night sky
Messier objects 81 and 82

Tom Auchter

What To Look For

What to look for depends on the time of year you go. A star chart will help you identify what you are seeing. It will also show you the locations of the most prominent constellations in the northern hemisphere. Remember that stars twinkle and planets don't. If an object is moving quickly and not blinking, it is a satellite or possibly the International Space Station. Here is a helpful planet viewing guide, and information about satellite flyover times.

The Milky Way galaxy will appear as a cloudy, silvery streak across the sky. Our view is from the inside looking out. In summer, we are looking towards the center of our galaxy, so it will be denser and therefore a bit easier to see. Everything we can see with just our eyes from our location is within the Milky Way galaxy, with two exceptions: the Triangulum Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy.

If you see a "shooting star", this is a meteor, a small debris fragment burning up in Earth's atmosphere. The best opportunities to see these are during meteor showers. If you come to the park at the right times, you might catch the Perseids in August, the Orionids in October, the Leonids in November, and the Geminids in December. Check out which meteor shower you may be able to see.

A sea of different stars surrounds the Ring Nebula, a blue/green/red collection of gas and dust in space
Messier Object 57

Paul Gardner

What To Bring

  • Extra layers, a jacket, and a hat. Summer nights can be cool.
  • A blanket or chair.
  • Binoculars - 7x50 binoculars are comparable to entry level telescopes.
  • A star chart, which can be purchased at a visitor center and many bookstores.
  • A red flashlight or headlight to read the star chart.

Spot the Station at Great Basin!

Look for the International Space Station as it flies over Great Basin National Park. The ISS traverses the circumference of the earth roughly every 93 minutes making for regular opportunities to get a chance to spot when flying over our humble section of Nevada.

Last updated: December 28, 2022

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100 Great Basin National Park
Baker, NV 89311


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