Where to Stargaze

The natural light of the Milky Way and constellations stand out against a dark sky over Maroon Bells, Colorado
The natural light of the Milky Way and constellations stand out against a dark sky over Maroon Bells, Colorado

© Jeremy White

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. Here are some ideas to make your experience memorable:

At Home

  • 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.

Around 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.

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).

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. An asterisk* denotes those parks certified by the International Dark Sky Association as dark sky destinations:

More Night!