The night sky at the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
Dan Duriscoe

10 Places for Viewing the Night Sky

"Dark sky" is like a Holy Grail for stargazers, but on this increasingly populated planet, areas with no light pollution from nearby human settlements are increasingly rare. Forget sky events like the Northern Lights or Perseid meteor showers -- even a normal night's constellations look dazzling in a truly dark sky. The following sites not only offer dark skies, but also have stargazing programs with local night-sky experts.

Photo Caption: The night sky at the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
The atmosphere is so crisp at the summit of Mauna Kea that people from all over the world gather for a spectacular view of the stars.
Bruce Omori
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
To many native Hawaiians, this cluster of 11 powerful telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain (measured from the sea floor), violates its spiritual significance to their culture. But an international group of astronomers prevailed, determined to capitalize on this unique unpolluted site so close to the equator. You can visit the summit's telescopes (one of which is the world's largest) by 4WD vehicles or on a guided tour.

More Info: tel. 808/961-5180; www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis

Photo Caption: The atmosphere is so crisp at the summit of Mauna Kea that people from all over the world gather for a spectacular view of the stars.
Natural Bridges National Monument in Lake Powell, Utah.
dennymont
Natural Bridges National Monument, Lake Powell, Utah
Set on a sandstone mesa in the middle of Utah's high-desert plateau, Natural Bridges not only is beautiful by day but also offers some of the darkest, clearest night skies in the nation. The International Dark-Sky Association named it the world's first International Dark Sky Park in 2006.

More Info: tel. 435/692-1234; www.nps.gov/nabr

Photo Caption: Natural Bridges National Monument in Lake Powell, Utah.
Astronomers at the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
Blake Gordon
Great Basin National Park
The low humidity, clean air, and high elevation of this remote national park all contribute to its supremely dark night skies. Unless the sky is cloudy, or the moon is too full, head for prime stargazing spots at the Wheeler Peak/Bristlecone Trail parking lot, Mather Overlook, and the Baker Archeological Site.

More Info: tel. 775/234-7331; www.nps.gov/grba

Photo Caption: Astronomers at the Great Basin National Park
Stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania.
seng1011
Cherry Springs State Park, Coudersport, Pennsylvania
Surrounded by farmland and state forest, with a mountain range blocking the nearest large city, and far inland from the cloud effect that sometimes gathers over the Great Lakes, this 48-acre park is renowned for its dark skies (and local anti-light-pollution ordinances). An official Pennsylvania State dark sky preserve, the park holds regular public stargazing nights.

More Info: tel. 814/435-5010; www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/cherrysprings.aspx

Photo Caption: Stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania.
The night sky in Torrance Barrens in Bala, Ontario.
jvetterli
Torrance Barrens, Bala, Ontario
Set on a flat shelf of bedrock, where the only trees are too stunted to block the horizons, Torrance Barrens is surrounded by other parklands and conservation areas. It's only an hour's drive north of Toronto, but it has remarkably little sky glow and 360-degree views

More Info: www.muskokaheritage.org/natural/torrancebarrens.asp

Photo Caption: The night sky in Torrance Barrens in Bala, Ontario.
Sunset on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada.
canadianveggie
Gordon's Park, Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Set on Manitoulin Island in northern Lake Huron, this eco-campground takes advantage of its remote location by setting aside a portion of the resort, with both tent sites and cabins, as a darksky preserve. The skies here are the darkest in Ontario.

More Info: tel. 705/859-2470; www.gordonspark.com

Photo Caption: Sunset on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada.
Perseid meteor shower seen from Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
steveluscher
McDonald Park Dark Sky Preserve, Abbotsford, British Columbia
Named a dark-sky preserve in 2000, this western-Canada park near the U.S. border is shielded by a mountain from the light pollution of the only nearby towns; its views are limited to the southern and western skies, but they are extraordinarily dark, despite the park's proximity to Vancouver.

More Info: www.fvas.net/dsp.html

Photo Caption: Perseid meteor shower seen from Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Sunset from Bald Butte at the Cypress Hills Dark Sky Preserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
spaceritual
Cypress Hills Dark-Sky Preserve, Alberta/Saskatchewan
This 98,800-acre expanse of forest-fringed prairie is Canada's largest designated dark-sky preserve. Stargazers gather in the Centre Block section, on the Saskatchewan side; the Meadows campground has unobstructed sky views.

More Info: tel. 403/893-3833; www.cypresshills.com

Photo Caption: Sunset from Bald Butte at the Cypress Hills Dark Sky Preserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Galloway Forest park in Dumfries, Scotland.
_____graeme
Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries, Scotland
Two hours away from the light pollution of either Glasgow or Edinburgh, the U.K.'s largest forest park (300 sq. miles/777 sq. km) is also its first designated Dark Sky Park, where some 7,000 stars are visible with the naked eye on a clear night. Set up your telescopes near any of its three visitor centers or in the Red Deer Range car park.

More Info: tel. 44/1671/402420; www.forestry.gov.uk/gallowayforestpark

Photo Caption: Galloway Forest park in Dumfries, Scotland.
Sunset is over the summit of Siding Spring mountain in the  Warrumbungle National Park in New South Wales, Australia.
timrawle
Warrumbungle National Park, New South Wales, Australia
The night sky looks completely different in the Southern Hemisphere -- don't miss it if you're down here. While rock climbers love this park for its volcanic rock spires, flat areas near Camp Blackman offer the most panoramic skies. The country's largest observatory, Siding Springs (www.aao.gov.au) sits just outside the park.

More Info: tel. 61/2/6825 4364; www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks

Photo Caption: Sunset is over the summit of Siding Spring mountain in the Warrumbungle National Park in New South Wales, Australia.
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