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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Next time you are riding in a car, look closely at the outdoor lights. Do some shine in your eyes more than others? Can you find a light that only shines downward? Learn more about night sky friendly lighting.
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
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. Other parks also have night sky programs, so be sure to check with your park if you are interested. An asterisk* denotes those parks certified by the International Dark Sky Association as dark sky destinations:
- Acadia National Park
- Arches National Park*
- Badlands National Park
- Big Bend National Park*
- Big Cypress National Preserve*
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park*
- Bryce Canyon National Park*
- Buffalo National River*
- Canyonlands National Park*
- Capitol Reef National Park*
- Capulin Volcano National Monument*
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Cedar Breaks National Monument*
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park*
- Chiricahua National Monument*
- City of Rocks National Reserve*
- Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve*
- Death Valley National Park*
- Denali National Park and Preserve
- Dinosaur National Monument*
- El Morro National Monument*
- Flagstaff Area National Monuments*
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument*
- Fort Union National Monument*
- Glacier National Park* (also see: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park)
- Grand Canyon National Park*
- Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument*
- Great Basin National Park*
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve*
- Hovenweep National Monument*
- Joshua Tree National Park*
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park*
- Natural Bridges National Monument*
- Obed Wild and Scenic River*
- Olympic National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park*
- Pipe Spring National Monument*
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument*
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Tonto National Monument*
- Tumacacori National Historical Park*
- Valles Caldera National Preserve*
- Voyageurs National Park*
- Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park*
Last updated: November 21, 2023