We enter a New Moon phase today and that means darker skies at night, and plenty of opportunity to truly marvel at the beauty of the universe — if you’re in the right spot.
They’re called “dark sky” parks and they’re free from light pollution.
In short, you’ll see the universe in a whole new way and come to truly appreciate its vastness.
If you’re wondering where to start, MarketWatch recently published “Six places in the U.S. that have epic starry skies.”
- Flagstaff, Ariz.
Flagstaff was the first city to ever receive the dark sky designation in 2001. Of course, the area offers tons of great outdoor activities local and regionally at places such as Sedona and the Grand Canyon.
- Borrego Springs, Calif.
California’s only International Dark-Sky Community is located in this desert oasis town in San Diego County.
- Torrey, Utah
Utah has nine dark sky parks, plus the town of Torrey, a dark sky community.
- Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, Mich.
Among other things, Headlands boasts 550 acres of woodlands and more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan at the northern tip of the state’s lower peninsula.
- Staunton River State Park in Virginia
This state park has replaced all lights with approved dark sky fixtures.
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Albuquerque, N.M.
A favorite stop of RVLifestyle contributor Campskunk, explore the ruins of Chaco Canyon by day and take in the splendor of the universe by night.
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Fans of the RVLifestyle might remember when our podcast featured John Barentine, program director, International Dark Sky Association, and Chrystal White, leader, Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative.
“The Dark Sky Places program that I manage designates both protected areas like parks as well as municipalities — places like cities and towns — on the basis of the work that they do to preserve what dark skies they have and to promote that through their communications to residents or visitors.
“It’s not just about whether or not you have a dark sky…but it’s also about how you’re being proactive to try and keep it,” Barentine said.
Barentine explained the difference between dark sky parks and dark sky reserves.
Parks are pretty self-explanatory.
Reserves are a bit more complicated and typically involve large areas of public spaces “but there may be settlements inside those areas.” So far, there aren’t any dark sky reserves in the U.S., he said.
Barentine added that dark skies aren’t just important for stargazing.
“It touches on our lives in ways we might not immediately think of,” he said. “Those include things like public safety, crime and security, our energy independence, the impacts on wildlife — there’s something in this for everybody really.”
White’s group trains star guides to lead stargazing trips, and hosts education and outreach events in schools, parks and planetariums. You can read more about the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative accomplishments here: https://cpdarkskies.org/our-work/mission-statement/.
She said dark skies help us connect with our past.
“We definitely don’t want to lose that draw to the night sky that our ancestors had,” White said. “It definitely connects us. And if you’ve ever been under a clear night sky there’s nothing quite like it.
“It connects us to the whole universe itself,” she said.
We couldn’t agree more.
You can learn more about Dark Skies and find a Dark Sky Place or Preserve near you at: http://darksky.org.
If you’re interested in taking pictures of the Milky Way, but sure to check out the RVLifestyle episode where I discussed it here.
And those who are interested in astronomy in general may want to check out Campskunk’s “Guide to the Stars: Astronomy with RV-Ready Telescopes” and the RVLifestyle Off the Beaten Path report on the McDonald Observatory in west Texas.
ANd listen to tomorrow's episode #249 of the podcast in which we interview an RVing couple who took early retirement so they could travel around with a telescope to visit national parks and teach about dark skies.
Of course, we're always looking for new locations to feature on the RVLifestyle so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!