Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 6 Cities with Incredible Night Skies

The Milky Way

Not everyone is looking for skyscrapers, hustle, bustle and noise when choosing a new hometown. Some people crave Mother Nature's simple beauty and incredible night skies. Check out these six cities (or the best places to live if starry displays are high on your livability list) with incredible night skies.

Saint George, Utah

Saint George is a comfortable mid-sized city (population about 75,000) only a short drive away from Cedar Breaks National Monument where you’ll see one of the most beautiful night sky displays in the world. Its remote location and 10,000-foot elevation virtually eliminate the light pollution that dampens most night skies. The nightscapes are so glorious, the park throws free Star Parties every Saturday night all summer long—telescopes included.

Boulder, Colorado

Take a quick trip to Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park for a breath-taking winter sky. Park rangers say the combination of elevation and atmospheric conditions transform the stars into twinkling clusters that illuminate the dark skies. The University of Colorado in Boulder has a robust astronomy community, and hosts Friday night stargazing at the Sommers-Bausch Observatory.

Key West, Florida

If winter snow and mountains aren't your cup of tea, the warm autumn skies in Key West will delight you. Even if you aren't a sailor, you can still see the Southern Cross, a small but beautiful constellation located in the southern sky, where you can search for your astrology sign. These wide-open stellar displays are unique in the US, and are closest to an equatorial view. The balmy Florida weather means you can stargaze year-round in comfort.

Mackinaw City, Michigan

Mackinaw City is home to one of only ten dark-sky parks in the entire world, a designation that recognizes special measures to prevent light pollution. Headlands International Dark Sky Park, along the shores of Lake Michigan, is open all night for uninterrupted viewing of the Milky Way. The best time to see meteors and shooting stars is after midnight, so bring a warm blanket and come watch the starry display.

Elmira, New York

Elmira (population about 30,000), is a quaint rural town that offers easy access to one of the Northeast's darkest sky parks. Just across the state line in Pennsylvania, Cherry Spring State Park, the night sky is so clear, the Milky Way occasionally causes a shadow. Stargazers say Cherry Springs is one of the best places to see the nucleus of the Milky Way galaxy.

Borrego Springs, California

Anza Borrego State Park, Borrego Springs, California

This desert destination is a great place to see galaxies, constellations, meteor showers, planets and the moon.  Not even the metropolitan lights of nearby San Diego interrupt the black sky that erupts in light and color after the sun goes down. For a truly unbelievable experience, watch the moon rise over the desert badlands. While the Anza-Borrego State Park is a popular nighttime destination, with over 650,000 acres of desert, you'll never feel crowded.

Kalispell and Swan Lake, in northern Montana near Glacier National Park, and in southeast Maine near Acadia National Park earn honorable mentions for spectacular night skies. If you have suggestions for amazing stargazing, leave a comment below!
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