We look up at the night sky all the time, but for many of us, the true beauty of the stars is hidden by light pollution. Here are our picks for the best places to cut through the glare and discover the true magnificence of a dark sky.
1. Hilo, Hawaii
Part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the Imiloa Astronomy Center inspires discovery and explores early Polynesian navigation history, the rich traditions of Hawaiian culture and the astronomical research conducted at the summit of Maunakea. To Hawaiians, Maunakea is a sacred place, as it plays an important role in their history and mythology.
2. Los Angeles, California
Made famous by movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and The Terminator—it’s where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character arrives after travelling back in time to 1984—the Griffith Observatory sets up telescopes on nights the sky is clear and the facility is open. It also has exhibits on space and is home to the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theatre.
3. Flagstaff, Arizona
Situated in the northern part of the state, this city of about 71,000 people is home to the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was famously discovered in 1930. Visitors can view the sun through a telescope, take guided tours of the facility and go on the Pluto Walk, a scale model of our solar system that helps people comprehend its vast size.
4. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
This year, along with celebrating its 100th anniversary as a national park, the Grand Canyon was also designated an International Dark Sky Park. To help keep the night sky pristine, the National Park Service is continuing its work to retrofit the park’s exterior lights to cut down on light pollution and make it easier for visitors to enjoy the celestial views.
If You’re in Europe: Greenwich, London, UK
This is the site of the Prime Meridian and where you’ll find The Royal Observatory, home to London’s only planetarium. Here you can fly into the heart of the sun, learn about the birth of a star and land on Mars during a virtual tour. The Royal Observatory also offers a range of astronomy courses, nighttime stargazing events and science-related guest talks.
Did you know?
Located 45 minutes east of Flagstaff is Meteor Crater, a 60-storey-deep impact crater formed after a meteorite collided with the Earth 50,000 years ago.