Dark skies: 23 best places in the world to stargaze
By Laura Ma, CNN
11:32 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2019
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona): The world-famous Grand Canyon National Park became an International Dark Sky Park in June 2019. Visitors and rangers celebrated with a "Sky Party" at Grand View Point, Island in the Sky.
Courtesy National Park Service
Brecon Beacons National Park (UK): Stargazers in the UK can enjoy the silhouette of the Llanthony Priory against the starry sky. The ruins have partly been converted into a pub. After a night of hard sky observation, you can step into the former Augustinian priory for an authentic Welsh ale.
Courtesy Michael Sinclair/michael-sinclair.co.uk
Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah): The natural Owachomo Bridge in Utah is silhouetted against the Milky Way and thousands of stars. This photo was taken on a particularly clear night after a storm, and features potholes full of water reflecting the scene, says photographer Jacob Frank.
Courtesy Jacob W. Frank
Westhavelland Dark Sky Reserve (Germany): Westhavelland International Dark Sky Reserve is less than a two-hour drive from Berlin. The summer night sky can be so dark and clear that zodiacal light (sunlight scattered by dust in space) and gegenschein (a faint brightening of zodiacal light at midnight) can be visible.
Courtesy Andreas Haenel
Mont-Mégantic Dark Sky Reserve (Canada): The annual Perseids Event at Mont-Mégantic is dedicated to the meteor shower that can be seen every August. Around 50-100 "fireballs" can be seen per hour across the sky in Quebec, Canada.
Courtesy Rémi Boucher
Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve (New Zealand): Looking south from Lake Tekapo, on the South Island in New Zealand, you can see the Milky Way stretching over the Church of the Good Shepherd. The Southern Cross and the Coal Sack Nebula are visible near the top of the image.
Courtesy Earth & Sky, Lake Tekapo
Exmoor National Park (UK): A long exposure or multiple stacked images can capture the motions of stars as the Earth rotates. As you focus toward the north or south poles, stars create a circular trail. On the clearest nights, 3,000 stars are visible over this park in Devon and Somerset, UK.
Courtesy David J. Rowlatt Photography
Pic du Midi Dark Sky Reserve (France): It's impossible to miss the Milky Way stretching across the sky from this French reserve. "Starry Night" programs are available on special astronomical occasions in the reserve, where an astronomer acts as your guide to the cosmos. You can use viewing equipment on the terraces.
Courtesy Nicolas Bourgeois/Pic du Midi
NamibRand Nature Reserve (Namibia): The light extending upwards from the horizon is zodiacal light, says Dr. George Tucker, a former professor of physics and astronomy. The Beehive Cluster is in the center of the light by the Namibian horizon with the constellation of Cancer around it and the stars of Leo above.
Courtesy Dr. George Tucker
Kerry Dark Sky Reserve (Ireland): Orion is one of several constellations that can be seen at this dark sky reserve in Ireland. In this photo, and with the naked eye when there, you can see the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Orion Nebula.
Courtesy Peter Cox
Northumberland Dark Sky Park (UK): Depending on disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field, the Aurora Borealis can be visible from Kielder Observatory, on the northernmost edge of England, close to the Scottish border.
Courtesy Northumberland Tourism
Goldendale Observatory State Park (Washington): Looking toward Oregon's Mount Hood during autumn, you can see Saturn (smaller than the dot of this "i" at the top left) and Venus (right of the moon) with the naked eye. If you want a better view of the tiny speck that is Saturn, you can use the park's telescope, one of the largest available for public use in the United States. The observatory is currently at a temporary location, but its soft opening is set for October 2019.
Courtesy Goldendale Observatory State Park
Death Valley National Park (California): The Sombrero Galaxy can be seen with an amateur telescope from Death Valley National Park in California. This image is a mosaic of six photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Many astronomers speculate that a black hole a billion times the mass of our sun is at the "Mexican hat's" center.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico): You can observe sky phenomena among ancient Pueblo ruins as Chacoan people did almost 1,000 years ago. In addition to regular events, including archaeo-astronomy and Pueblo Bonito full moon walks, special events are held for phenomena such as eclipses and meteor showers.
Hortobágy National Park (Hungary): Pristine night skies were a perk and a necessity for Hortobágy's traditional shepherds in Hungary. Early 20th-century shepherds relied heavily on knowledge of stars and constellations for livelihood and cultural reasons.
Courtesy Tanya Ladanyi
Galloway Forest Park (UK): Star formations or "stellar nurseries" can be seen without the use of equipment in this park in Scotland, but details of the nebulae are better observed through one of the two telescopes at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.
Courtesy P. Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint
Big Bend National Park (Texas) —
Big Bend National Park (Texas): In this picture the swirl of the Milky Way can clearly be seen from Panther Junction, the center of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Among the stars, you can also see the constellations Gemini, Taurus and Orion. It's the only dark sky park in the Northern Hemisphere where you can see parts of the Southern Cross.
Courtesy National Park Service
Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania): Visibility at Cherry Springs can be so good that the Milky Way is sometimes bright enough to cast shadows on the ground.
Courtesy Pennsylvania Wilds
Geauga Observatory Park (Ohio): Using this park's telescope, you can see deep sky objects such as the Dumbbell Nebula. The nebula is the remains of exploded stars and stretches 4.5 light years across.
Courtesy Mike Wagner
Clayton Lake Dark Sky Park (Ohio): The Northern Cross is part of the constellation of Cygnus. This image was captured in Geauga Observatory Park in Ohio, but the constellation can be clearly seen at Clayton Lake Dark Sky Park in New Mexico during the summer too.
Courtesy George and Deb Gajdos
Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory (North Canada): In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this new dark sky park is one of few places on the east coast to offer spectacular views of the Milky Way.
Courtesy Todd Bush
Zselic Starry Sky Park (Hungary): The Orion constellation and Orion Nebula can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere during spring. Paul Jeanes captured this image of the Orion Nebula (also known as M42) from his observatory in Washford, UK, but it can also be seen from Hungary's Zselic Starry Sky Park.
Courtesy Paul Jeanes
Headlands Dark Sky Park (Michigan): The Headlands are one of the best stargazing destinations in the United States. During the larger meteor showers such as the Perseids (which peak mid-August) and the Geminids (which peaks mid-December) you can watch the "falling stars" streak in front of the Milky Way.