Traveling to the “Stars”
by Amy Lignor
Astronomy can be daunting if you’re just starting out. After all, there’s a whole universe out there to see. The best way to begin, however, is not by investing in those expensive telescopes. Instead, simply travel to the most amazing areas in all of America and start…looking up. There, in the night sky, you will see the most incredible sights as you gaze at constellations, shooting stars, and basically relax and enjoy while being surrounded by a world that not even the master painters could recreate on canvas.
There is an unforgettable place located in California where surreal and unique sights await. Binoculars are a must for this one, because you will not want to miss a second of the brilliant skies that shroud Joshua Tree National Park. At the Jumbo Rocks Campground, you are talking about the sun setting on an absolutely pollution-free area that holds a fascinating menu of plants and animals that you most likely have never seen before.
The geologic features, the culture, the history – this is one area to stargaze that will be locked in your memory for all time. It is the Colorado Desert that makes up the most eastern part of the park and meets up with the slightly cooler Mojave Desert on the western side – the side that plays home to the Joshua tree. And by pitching your tent among the park’s giant granite rock formations, you find yourself 1,000 feet higher than some of the other park’s sights and sounds where you will literally watch in awe as the Southern California sky lights up in a myriad of colors.
Only a short hop away is Phoenix, Arizona, which is ideal for seeing those stars. You are offered places such as, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, where the skies offer stellar views of planets, star clusters and galaxies; as well as Tempe Town Lake, where you can actually be a part of a glow-in-the-dark paddling event.
Heading higher up into the atmosphere, Badlands National Park in South Dakota offers an incredible nighttime sky. So brilliant, in fact, that “sky viewing” is offered Friday through Monday nights. And after the ranger program is over, you can continue to stay and be impressed by the striking views that more than 7,500 stars provide. Telescopes are on-site and the campground there is actually created with 96 level campsites, where you are given an extraordinary spot to get what feels like an up-close and personal view of the Milky Way, itself.
And for even more depth and clarity of the Milky Way, head to the Lone Star State. Big Bend National Park in the great state of Texas boasts the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48. There are no towns, no dwellings – nothing casts light upon that world other than the stars themselves.
Not to leave out the East Coast here, in the state of Pennsylvania, one of the greatest and most talked about places for stargazing is at Cherry Springs State Park. Named for its numerous stands of black cherry trees, this park is remote, wild and sits atop a mountain where it truly feels like you can touch the stars as well as see them in all their glory. This location is so incredible that they even offer a facet of the Stars-N-Parks Program for stargazing enthusiasts. The magnificent night sky at Cherry Springs can also be viewed at the Night Sky Viewing area located north of Rt. 44 (opposite the gated Astronomy Observation Field). Public parking lots are located here along with several information kiosks about the area. Visitors can either camp or simply follow the walkways, sit on the benches and gape at the stunning night sky that’s decorated with everything you can think of, including “falling stars” that make the sky look like a glittering oasis. Here, your vacation will be more than fun…it will be magical.
From Utah to the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico, stargazing trips can be had no matter where you live or where you wish to visit. Mother’s Day is coming. Summer is around the bend. Perhaps you can bring the ones you truly love to get a glimpse of these breathtaking places where they can literally reach for the stars!
Source: Baret News