The winter months not only bring crisp temperatures, but they also offer the opportunity to see stars when they’re at their brightest. When it comes to winter stargazing, though, not all backyards are created equal. The closer you are to a city, the more light pollution you’ll have and the fewer stars you’ll be able to see. Now there’s no need to wait for the next neighborhood power outage to see a sky full of stars. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA), based out of Tucson Arizona, is dedicated to preserving locations around the globe that offer the best stargazing you’ll ever find.
The IDA advocates the idea of people getting out of brightly lit cities and experiencing the lost beauty of dark skies. This year, the IDA will add its 100th international dark sky location to its list of venues. With that many locations, frequent travelers can find a stargazing spot pretty easily. Some notable sites include Joshua Tree National Park in California, which was added to the list of locations last year, Exmoor National Park in England, and Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve in Africa. The IDA will be promoting the Joshua Tree location heavily this year, as the park hosts an annual party called the Night Sky Festival, which will offer visitors night hikes, astronomy talks and, of course, stargazing parties.
If you’re traveling in Canada, consider stopping off in Bon Accord, located in Alberta. This was the first town to receive a dark sky classification, and it’s a great location for viewing the Northern Lights. You can also visit the Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, where you can not only hang out with local astronomers but also enjoy dinner, campfires and live music. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you can take a nighttime snowshoe hike in Elk Island National Park, located just outside of Bon Accord.
The Middle East is a fantastic place for stargazing, thanks to the vast desert spaces you’ll find there. The first Middle Eastern location to be added to the IDA list is the Ramon Crater Nature Reserve in Israel, which was added in September last year. The program director for the IDA mentions that stargazing is a way to bring people of different cultures together. Even if they don’t speak the same language, their appreciation for the stars is the same.