“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” -Carl Sagan
For nearly all of human history, people have looked to the stars to inspire and inform. Ancient people used the stars and constellations to explain the things that happen on Earth. They told the stories of gods, animals, mythic creatures, and heroes. Stars helped preserve the stories and cultures of different people before writing was invented.
Stars were also used as navigational tools. Sailors and travelers would use the position of the stars to guide them. The North Star, Polaris, is perhaps the most famous navigational star used.
Today, humans are no less curious about the stars. Sadly, due to light pollution, more than two-thirds of the world’s population is not able to see the milky way, and countless other stars, once crucial to human life, have been blocked out by our lights. So here are 10 of the best places in the world to stargaze.
Big Pine Key, Florida
Big Pine Key is a great spot in the southern United States to see various celestial events, like meteor showers, lunar eclipses, and comets. Due to its location nearer to the equator, you can see some of the southern hemisphere’s constellations there during the month of February.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
There are more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and Big Bend National Park is an excellent place to get a look at some of them. Big Bend National Park has the least light pollution of any National Park in the United States. On any given night, you should be able to see more than 2,000 stars above your head.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
The American Southwest is truly an excellent region to view the stars. This desert in New Mexico is one of the best spots to view the stars. There are few trees and mountains, leaving a generally unobstructed view of the sky from horizon to horizon.
Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada
Like White Sands, Death Valley is another excellent choice for viewing meteor showers. But be cautious. This desert can be extraordinarily hot during the day and then dip to very cold temepratures at nights. But it boasts one of the darkest skies in the country and bears the title of International Dark Sky Park.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park is a special place to view the stars. The Perseid meteor shower in particular is very easy to view here, and you can also catch the northern lights on occasion.
Mercantour National Park, France
This has been a western hemisphere focused blog so far. Where can you catch the stars in Europe? ercantour National Park is a great option. It’s one of just 10 national parks in France and is the darkest among them, allowing for awesome star gazing.
Joshua Tree National Park, Californi
Joshua Tree National Park is an excellent location to see the stars. It is far enough away from major cities, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, that the stars are mostly not blocked by any lights. Its climate makes for a decent location to view the stars during winter months as well. North America tends to experience its best celestial events in the fall and winter months.
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes are incredibly beautiful. It’s a great region to visit, even if star gazing isn’t your #1 reason for being there. But it is an incredibly rural area, meaning there is very little light pollution blocking the stars. It’s a great place to go for seeing any celestial event.
Tucson is sometimes called the astronomy capital of the world and for good reason. Their mountains have the most telescopes of anyplace in the world and the sky is very dark, given how close it is to a rather large city. So if star gazing is something you plan to base your life around, Tucson should perhaps be on your list of places to live!
Kielder Forest, England
In the United Kingdom, perhaps the best place to see the stars is close to the Scottish border in Northumberland. Kielder Forest is a designated Dark Sky Zone, putting restrictions on light pollution in the area so people can see the stars unhindered.