” Best Places to Stargaze around the World written by Saikiran Kumbhar ”
For us, living in a city, a clear night sky is still a fairy tale. We’ve heard stories of the legends inspired by the constellations and know that sailors used the stars to guide their way home. But today urban light pollution does not allow us to stargaze as very few stars are visible. Something changes when we see and know more about the wonders that are hidden beneath the dark sky.
Throughout the era, many civilizations- Greeks, Indus, Egyptians- and many others had a strong connection with the night sky. For them stargazing was a source of spiritual connection with the heavens, arising from many ancient myths about the MilkyWay and constellations.
Here are the places for awe-struck night skies to stargaze:
1. Alaska: With isolated landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and sparkling reflective lakes, stargazing in Alaska is a special experience. You will get clear dark skies to stargaze and witness the wonders of the night sky. With the least light pollution, you can enjoy the northern lights which occur in all four seasons of the year, but the best time to look out for northern lights in Alaska is between August and April when less daylight leads to darker skies.
2. Atacama Desert and Elqui Valley, Chile
The Atacama-Elqui region has one of the best skies to stargaze worldwide. Low rainfall, high altitude, and scant light pollution make the region heaven for astrophile. The 90,000-acre Elqui valley became the first-ever International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2015. A must-visit spot during the MilkyWay season for astrophotographers.
3. Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland
The Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve occupies the southwest area of Ireland on the Iveragh Peninsula. The reserve offers a never-to-forget dark and starry sky to stargaze with the least light pollution from the surrounding. It is one of the four Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserves designed by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in the world. Each year the Skellig Star Party takes place at Ballinskelligs, featuring stargazing sessions for visitors.
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4. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand
Aoraki Mackenzie Reserve has the best skies for stargazing in New Zealand. Home to the country’s largest mountain, a stargazing tour at Mount John University Observatory or at Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center and Planetarium to view MilkyWay, Southern Cross and you can also enjoy aurora australis. The reserve protects its dark sky heritage for the indigenous Maori people for whom the night sky and stars play a significant role in navigation and folklore.
5. NamibRand? Nature Reserve, Namibia
The NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the naturally darkest and most easily accessible place on the African continent since the closest inhabited communities are located around 60 miles from this location. The reserve recognizes the importance and value of keeping the night sky dark and has been designated a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association. A must-visit place for amateur astronomers to stargaze and get one of the best views of the planets Venus & Jupiter and the MilkyWay in the unadulterated form.
6. Pic du Midi, France
The Pic du Midi is the oldest high mountain astronomy observatory in the world which dates back to the late 19th century. The Dark Sky Reserve is located in the mountainous region of southern France which draws nearly 1.5 million visitors per year. It encompasses both a UNESCO World Heritage Site “ Pyrenees- Mont Perdu” and National Park. Here you can admire to stargaze the whole ballet of stars of the Milky Way along with the Sagittarius constellation and the messier objects within the constellation. A team has been designated by the International Dark-Sky Association to manage the Dark Sky Reserve project and to install and maintain scientific instruments in the region to monitor the quality of the night sky.
7. Kozushima Island, Japan
Kozushima Island, a remote island located around 180 KM south of Tokyo’s metropolitan area has been designated by the International Dark-Sky Association as the Dark Sky Park (Dark Sky Island). The night sky darkness in some parts of the island reaches around 21.9 mag/arcsec 2 on a clear night sky. Here you can enjoy the naked eye open star cluster such as the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus, h & chi- persie cluster in the constellation Perseus and not to forget the view of the nearest galaxy Andromeda.
We, Earthlings, have always been fascinated by the wonders of the night sky with the aim of finding new legends in the form of stories or doing some scientific research.