Best Campgrounds for Stargazing Around the World

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Stargazing is a free activity that can be amazing. From shooting stars to planets visible to the naked eye, you never know what you will see when you look up at the sky on a clear night. To begin stargazing, you need to find an area that is free of light pollution. Light pollution interferes with how people naturally see the stars in the night sky since the light from the sky is dimmer than the light coming from buildings and cars. By reducing the amount of light pollution in an area, you’ll be able to get a clear view of the stars in the sky. No matter where you are, there are websites, books, and specialized maps that can point out the different stars, constellations, and other celestial bodies that onlookers see with the naked eye.

Many people go on camping trips because they’re tired of the hustle and bustle of life in the city. There is no better way to spend time in the outdoors than to enjoy a relaxing camping trip. So if you long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors, you can put some of these ideas to good use. There are many activities that you can do while you are camping and you will never feel bored. No matter how long you stay on your camping excursion, there are things that you simply must do while you are there. In many cases, families have found that these excursions are a great way to inject a little fun into their lives. Despite the advantages of taking a camping trip, it is always important to find out where you are going and what you can do ahead of time so that you’re adequately prepared.

Importance of Dark Skies

The process of moving away the stars from us is attributed to many causes: the increasing use of lighting, the perplexity associated with lighting the streets, and the urbanization of the environment (not only has there been an increase in light pollution caused by street lighting, but also through neon and advertising). It is estimated that over 90% of the world’s population lives under gray skies. Light pollution has significant consequences for humankind. In many places, hereby referred to as “gray cities,” many children have never seen the Milky Way. This loss of wonder has serious consequences.

There are only a few people in the world who have never turned their eyes to the sky and marveled at the stars. The stars have always inspired people and civilizations throughout history. But in today’s world, the amount of artificial light is increasing rapidly, so much so that we are beginning to lose our age-old custom of gazing at the skies, the so-called stargazing. Comprehensive research shows that these advances during the 20th century have led to the erosion of many night skies by turning night into day, first in urban areas, and more recently encroaching upon rural areas as well.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Stargazing Campground

Surely enough, not every other campground is a stargazing campground. To the untrained eye, this does not seem like an important distinction to make. That said, the actual differences between them are quite simple and straightforward. It is always about the sky conditions that can enable great stargazing. Great stargazing experiences often depend on open (preferably flat) areas away from cities and less light pollution in the skies. Often times, results are better the farther away from cities you are. As you move further and further away, the reduction in visual obstructions and the growing darkness contribute to perfect dark skies. A dedicated campground is what you need to find for the best stargazing experience. Places that make ‘dark skies’ among the first selling points are often your best bet in securing a good stargazing site.

If you are looking for a dedicated space to stargazing and do not have a private property to do so, you do not necessarily have to go far away to find the best spot. You can find many dedicated campgrounds in many places around the world specifically designed to cater to the needs of stargazers. But not all campgrounds are created equal. While some feature all the conditions to provide the best stargazing experience, many others do not. The difference between them is often easier to spot than you would imagine. To highlight how you can secure a fantastic spot for stargazing, let’s do a thorough guide into the many factors that are important when choosing a campground to stargaze.

Light Pollution Levels

The International Dark Sky Association maintains an interactive map of light pollution around the world. The levels are categorized by colors and varying levels of what is only called sky glow. Less than 20 percent of the kids today will ever see our own Milky Way. Researchers have actually photographed more than 23,000 galaxies in a 1.8 degree square of the sky because of the brightness of this galaxy. In 1994, a magnitude 5 meteor during the annual Perseid meteor shower signaled the end of the drought of seeing the Milky Way. You can also seek out a simple seasonal astronomy guide to take along to help point out what else you’re seeing. The night sky is a whole other world waiting to be explored, and by camping under the stars, it’s like having a little backyard to spark interest in Big Questions.

Do you really want to camp at a campground with eight streetlights lighting it up like a Christmas tree? Do try to look for campgrounds divided into sites where you can turn off the car lights at night and really experience the stars. These liberating campgrounds are becoming scarcer and scarcer. Check the light pollution levels before your final choice. Some parks prohibit campfires and restrict flashlights, knowing that every small light will diminish the heavens above you. This can be an ideal time to leave your iPhone, iPod, and iPad behind and teach the kids the Heavens Above constellations. And teenagers, trust me, it’s almost as much fun to teach the parents.

Top Campgrounds for Stargazing

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve: A designation only assigned to this area in August of 2017 by the International Dark-Sky Association, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve features exceptionally dark night skies and a nocturnal environment that allows for the regular occurrence of natural sky phenomena. In partnership with Ketchum and Sun Valley, the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association run regular star-viewing programs at the Robert G. Devilbiss Field Airport.

Jasper Dark Sky Preserve: The Jasper Dark Sky Preserve, located in the Canadian Rockies in Jasper National Park, will impress any astronomy fanatic. Every August, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held with a complete line-up of presentations and activities for stargazers of all backgrounds. Don’t miss a peek through the largest telescope in the park, the Park’s telescope.

Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station: Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is known as one of Earth’s best observational sites thanks to its very dark and clear skies. Star-gazing sessions at the Mauna Kea visitor information station held here enlist telescopes to explain the Milky Way and planets, and indigenous astronomers will connect stargazers with Hawaiian starlore.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park: The Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico is listed as a Dark Sky Park. The park’s sky-gazing programs include guided tours and a telescope for public use. The Chaco culture’s ancient archaeological sites are impressive against the backdrop of the night sky.

Sky Meadows: The Appalachian Trail cuts across Virginia’s Sky Meadows State Park, which offers public stargazing throughout the summer each year at an outdoor meadow theater. Keep your ears open for nightingales singing in this picturesque park.

Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawaii

With more than 13,750 tons of telescopes and other equipment located at the summit, Mauna Kea is one of the most important astronomy sites on Earth. Because the top of the mountain is so significant, many tourists are drawn to the spot almost daily to take in the amazing views, which has led to some conflicting interests among astronomers and tourists. However, if you’re interested in stargazing at Mauna Kea, you don’t necessarily have to go to the top. Due to the mountain’s large mass and isolation from artificial light, any good view up the mountain will provide ideal stargazing conditions. Just make sure you dress for winter — even if you’re in Hawaii!

Mauna Kea, located in Hawaii, is a well-known stargazing spot for both amateur and professional astronomers. In fact, it is the home of some of the world’s most important ground-based astronomical observatories. Mauna Kea boasts a dozen premier observatories, including the University of Hawaii 88-inch telescope, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, and Keck Observatory — two of the largest optical telescopes in the world. The visitor information station is open daily between 9 AM and 10 PM. The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy is also available at the 9,200-foot level seven days a week, from 9 AM to 10 PM. This is an altitude where visitors can see dramatically improved vistas and stargazing conditions over sea level sites.

Tips for Stargazing at Campgrounds

Know the sky. Taking a good map of the stars with you is a great idea. Plant some landmark constellations, such as Orion or the Big Dipper, that can point you in the right direction when you get lost. When your eyes adjust to the darkness, the night sky will light up, but if you use a flashlight or headlamp, then it will take several minutes to get adjusted again, and the sky will just be a little darker than when you started. Take food and drink with you. A camping trip might be more of a cooking situation, but if you don’t mind doing some food prep at home and just warming up a stew, then you can tuck into that as the night sky starts to shine. Also, skip the coffee unless you want to be up all night. The warmth of the drink could well keep you awake. Always follow campfire safety and check local guidelines for making a fire. Always respect nature and your destination’s rules. With these tips in mind, here are seven suggested campgrounds.

If you’d like to test your stargazing skills and finally see some planets, there are a few essential things to know about stargazing at a campground. Choose a spot where there’s little light pollution. Check the moon cycle before you go. Choose a spot on high ground to have a less obstructed view. Take your tent, sleeping bag, and pack as if you’re going camping, and you are set. Also, pack some warm clothes even in the summer months as it can get chilly at night.

Equipment Needed

App – There are multiple apps that help you stargaze. Although I believe the old-fashioned way of looking up to the stars with the help of a good book or map is always best, the technology is right there for you to take advantage of.

Chair – A folding chair or picnic blanket will keep your neck from getting stiff and uncomfortable, which will lead to a very uncomfortable night.

Map of the constellations – You can’t just look and nod, can you? Prepare yourself by knowing your way around the sky.

Binoculars or Telescope – These may be a bit bulky, but they’re worth the extra carry. Make sure to keep them safe.

Camera – This is a must! The views are simply breathtaking most of the time, and the world should know not only because you describe it but also because you actually have some stunning photos to show.

Blanket – A good accessory will allow you to feel warm and still be able to check the stars. Bring a comfy blanket to wrap yourself with.

If you want to explore the beauty of the limitless night sky during your next adventure, it’s important that you’re fully equipped before you leave. You can’t just pack some cozy clothes and a camera, although those items are key during a stargazing trip, of course. Here are the items to add to your camping checklist.