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Where to Stargaze

Visitors gather beneath the night sky
Darkness masks hundreds of visitors gathered beneath the night sky in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo by Kevin Doxstater.

Experiencing the outdoors should be done both by day and by night. A whole new world comes alive at night and is waiting to be explored. Be prepared for a cool night, be patient and let your eyes adjust, and take your family or friends with you. The NPS is pleased to share these few ideas:

At Home

Sleep in your backyard on a starlit night.Watch the stars and planets move across the night sky.

Make a red flashlight. Use red paper or cellophane to cover a white flashlight. This will help you navigate at night without compromising your night vision!

Can you see the stars as well in your backyard with the porch light on? Try different light bulbs, even different light fixtures, so that you can see the stars better.

Around Town

From an open field or park, find the Big Dipper.The last two stars in the cup of the Big Dipper point to the North Star, which is just a bit dimmer than the individual stars in the Big Dipper.

Attend your local astronomy club's next public "star party." There you can find amateur astronomers sharing views through their telescopes.

Next time you are riding in a car, look closely at the outdoor lights. Do some shine in your eyes more than others? Can you find a light that only shines downward? Learn more about night sky friendly lighting.

In the Wilderness

National parks are great places to get to know the animals that are nocturnal—wildlife that is awake at night and asleep during the day. Sit quietly and listen for these creatures.

Look for the Milky Way stretching across the night sky. What looks like a faint cloud is actually the light from millions and millions of distant stars. The Milky Way is our home galaxy and is best seen in summer and fall evening skies.

If the full moon is up, the Milky Way will be hard to see. Try going for a night hike instead! Let your eyes adjust to the moonlight and keep your flashlight turned off (but available for safety if you need it).

Last Updated: April 23, 2012