12 dark places to stargazing in August to see the Perseid meteor shower and the Milky Way
Ready for summer stargazing? August is an astronomer’s dream this year, with Jupiter and Saturn in “opposition”, each rising at dusk at their biggest and brightest of the year.
But there is more.
The peak of the Perseid meteor shower arrives next week. It will be best seen in the early hours of Thursday August 12 in North America and Friday August 13 (UK and Europe).
It’s also the best week of the year to see our Milky Way galaxy cross the night sky just after dark. With a New Moon this Sunday August 8, the next 10 days are the darkest nights of the month.
While you can see the planets perfectly from any city, the “shooting stars” and the Milky Way cannot be seen, both of which are much more impressive from a dark sky destination.
As a general rule, you should travel about 40 kilometers from a city or town and consult the Light pollution map.
Since the Perseid meteor shower will be best seen from the Northern Hemisphere, here are some of the best places for a dark sky reliably in North America and Europe.
1.Mesa Verde International Dark Sky Park, Colorado, USA
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous for its ancestral Puebloan cave dwellings and over 5,000 known archaeological sites … and its fabulously dark night sky.
2. Elan Valley Dark Sky Park, Wales, UK
Although overshadowed by the more famous Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales, the Elan Valley is the darkest place for stargazing in the UK’s darkest country.
A 45,000-acre reservoir area, pumping stations, Victorian bridges and dams make it a magnet for nightlife photographers.
3.e-EyE, Extremadura, Spain
Starlight reserve for five years, the e-EyE The astronomical complex northwest of Seville, in southwestern Spain, is part of a new generation of astro-tourism centers.
In addition to renting an observatory and attending celebrity parties and events, you can leave a telescope there and control it remotely from home, taking advantage of the region’s 250 clear nights each year.
4. Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Maine Woods, New England, United States
International Dark Sky Parks on the east coast of the United States are few, but a plan is being hatched. In May, the 14,000 square kilometer forest in North Maine Woods was designated as such, with the idea of creating a vast reserve by combining the new AMC Maine Woods International Dark Sky Park with the existing Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
5. Cotswolds AONB, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, UK
Most of the dark sky parks in the UK are found in Scotland, Wales and only in the South West and North of England, but dark skies exist closer to London. The rural Cotswolds, known for their rolling hills and golden-colored Cotswold Stones, is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in south-central England teeming with dark skies.
The old Rollright Stones monument near Chipping Norton is a Starry sky discovery site.
6. Prineville Reservoir State Park, Oregon, USA
The first international dark sky park in Oregon, Prineville Reservoir State Park was only appointed in May.
Northeast of Bend in the High Desert, it’s a 3,000 acre lake with boating, fishing, hiking trails, camping and starry skies.
7. Big Bend National Park, Texas, United States
Get ready for one of the biggest areas of starry sky in the world. Now going through a certification process being organized by McDonald Observatory, local counties have updated their starry sky lighting ordinances.
It’s already one of the best places in North America for stargazing, with numerous star parties, moonlit walks and night sky interpretation programs.
8. Attersee-Traunsee Nature Park, Austria
The first international dark sky park in Austria and designated earlier this year, the Naturpark Attersee-Traunsee stretches over 77 square kilometers of forest in the foothills of the Alps.
All of its local lights were replaced in 2018 with equipment compatible with dark skies.
9. Pic du Midi International Starry Sky Reserve, Hautes-Pyrénées, France
A combination of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Pyrénées-Mont Perdu) and a French National Park (Pyrenees National Park), the centerpiece of this vast international dark sky reserve is the iconic Observatory of the Pic du Midi.
You can go up by cable car and spend the night with the stars … And fabulous telescopes.
10. Natural Bridge International Dark Sky Park, Virginia, USA
Do not think that only the night skies of the western parts of the United States should be recognized and protected.
Virginia now has three International Dark Sky Parks, the most of any state east of the Mississippi River, the latest being the Natural Bridge State Park, a limestone gorge with forests and meadows.
11. Dead Horse Point Dark Sky Park, Utah, United States
Between the vast national parks of Canyonlands and Arches, both famous for their dark skies, the small but spectacular Dead Horse Point State Park is often overlooked.
About 6,000 feet. above sea level, its night sky is very dark, and the view from its viewing platform – over a gooseneck in the Colorado River – is unbeatable.
12. Brecon Beacons International Dark Sky Reserve, Wales, UK
Mention the dark skies to anyone in southern England or South Wales and they will immediately think of this famous national park. A vast area of peaks, rolling landscapes and waterfalls, there are hundreds of places to camp, glamp and go stargazing.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.