The clear night skies blanketed over off-the-beaten-path destinations are staggering. The absence of artificial light pollution in these natural locations lends itself to brilliant overhead vistas, and seeing the sparkling lightscapes is a truly moving experience. Here are four places to visit on a warm summer night to view awe-inspiring constellations of stars during your free time.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon’s high elevation and clean, dry air make it a perfect place to admire clear nighttime views in the United States. While the stars are stunning any time of year, June is one of the best months to visit and scan the sky. This is when park rangers and astronomers host a series of “star parties” on the South and North Rims, where visitors can admire constellations and planets through professional telescopes. Plus, on moonless nights, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye.
Did you know?
The night sky above the Grand Canyon’s Parashant National Monument is listed as one of only 35 International Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark Sky Association. This association recognizes a small number of communities, reserves, parks and sanctuaries with pristine night skies worthy of preservation around the globe.
The Masai Mara, Kenya
Kenya’s vast savanna and varied wildlife amaze during the day, but it’s the starry sky that steals the show at night. While you won’t be permitted to go strolling along with the Masai Mara after nightfall, stepping outside of your tent at the camps is allowed with a flashlight or a personal escort. From admiring the Milky Way to searching for shooting stars, there are so many celestial wonders to marvel at.
Constellation to search for: “The Hunter”
Twenty stars make up this famous constellation, also known as “Orion,” which is best seen during the summer in the Southern Hemisphere and is often visible from Kenya. When each star is connected, Orion looks like a man who’s wearing a sword on his belt and holding a club and a shield.
The South Island, New Zealand
Look up on a chilly summer night in New Zealand — the country is home to some of the darkest skies in the Southern Hemisphere, which will leave you in celestial awe. In fact, the South Island is home to the gold-tiered Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest international dark sky reserve in the world. It’s the place to go to search for “Crux, the Southern Cross“—one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most important constellations—which is featured prominently on New Zealand’s flag and can be seen year-round from the island.
Staff tip for stargazing
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so it’s cold there during our summer time, especially on the South Island. Travelers should bring lots of layers and bundle up for a night of stargazing. Wool sweaters are a must!
County Kerry, Ireland
If you want to see sparkling night skies in Europe, Kerry is a must-visit. The county boasts many stunning, rugged landscapes (think the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park), and millions of stars dot the inky sky when the sun sets. Like New Zealand, Kerry also lays claim to an international dark sky reserve, which is noted as the only one with gold-tier status in the Northern Hemisphere. The reserve only includes certain portions of the county, but stargazing in Kerry is sure to astound no matter where you’re standing.
Spot another galaxy
While the Milky Way is normally the only galaxy we can see with the naked eye in some regions, the Andromeda Galaxy can also be spotted on exceptionally clear nights in certain parts of the world, including Kerry. It may only seem like a bright smudge in a dark sky, but is in fact that farthest thing in the solar system that we can see without a telescope.
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