One of the best memories from childhood is looking up at the stars at night. Growing up in the country, we had a good view of the stars in the Northern Hemisphere. While we lived close to a city, the light pollution was relatively minimal until my teens. We would sit out on the porch and locate Orion; it was easy to find because of the distinctive belt. The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper were also easy to spot. We never got much beyond these three constellations, but we always enjoyed the panorama of the night sky.
Requirements for Stargazing
The only real requirement for stargazing is minimal to no light pollution. The lights of major urban areas blot out much of the night sky, washing out the stars. In terms of light pollution, the very best places to stargaze are the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. However, as they are difficult to reach and require specialized clothing to keep from freezing to death, we’ll have to drop them from the list, and concentrate on easier to get to and warmer locations.
Northern Hemisphere Stars
To view the star field in the northern hemisphere, you need locations easy to get to in dark areas. Here are some places you may want to try:
Any National Park
Most, if not all, of the national parks in America have places away from the bright lights of urban sprawl. Find a clearing inside of the park, take a telescope, and enjoy the stars to your heart’s content.
Rural Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico
There are locations in these states where city lights are not a problem, and you can find fields with splendid views of the night sky. You may have to find the owner and get permission, but it will be well worth the effort.
The Mojave and Sonora Deserts
The desert is flat and usually unoccupied. You will need to watch out for the denizens in the area – the sidewinders and Mojave rattlers are kind of picky about company in their territories – but a Jeep parked out in Dead Valley with a telescope will give you an astonishing view of the stars.
Vancouver is the biggest city in British Columbia, but there are still areas in the province without much in the way of civilization. You may have to backpack into the mountains, but once on top you will have an unobstructed view.
The Florida Panhandle Barrier Islands
While the barrier islands are, if anything, overpopulated, once everybody settles down for the night, the beaches are fairly dark. You won’t get as good a view here as you would in the backwoods of Montana, but the beaches are accessible to just about anybody who wants to go. Sitting out on the dunes will let you stargaze quite well, especially if you choose one of the less popular islands.
Southern Hemisphere Stars
There are places in the southern hemisphere you can go to stargaze as much as you want. Try these spots for amazing views of the southern stars:
While the Outback is not the most hospitable place in the world, there are places where you can find campsites with great views of the night sky. Watch out for the native denizens, however – crocodiles and poisonous snakes are not the best companions on a camping trip.
Zambia, the Serengeti, South Africa
Visit one of Zambia’s game parks, or take a trip onto the Serengeti Plain to get fantastic views of the night sky. Zambia offers photographic safaris, so you can see the scenery and the animals during the day and stargaze at night. There are numerous places in South Africa away from the cities where you can visit to stargaze at night,
This island, off the coast of Chile, is definitely populated, but there are still places in the interior where you can get away from the lights and stargaze. You will need to check with the city closest to where you want to go to find out if it’s possible, and what you need to watch out for while you’re there.
Tahiti is populated, but there are stretches of beach away from the cities and villages where you can get away from the light pollution and have a splendid view of the southern stars.
The Japanese island of Hokkaido has centers of population, but there are places along the shore and in the interior where you can get away from the light pollution and have a great view of the southern skies at night.
These ten locations, five in each hemisphere, should give you places to go and see the full night sky. With a telescope, you can see the stars as much as you want without the intrusion of civilization and its lights. Follow the stars uninterrupted and get views you’ve only dreamed of before.