There’s nothing quite like lying underneath a blanket of stars during a balmy summer night. Whether you’re a casual observer of the skies or know your way around the constellations, stargazing can be both a beautiful and contemplative experience.
For those who want to take their stargazing experience to the next level, several U.S. national parks are hosting stargazing festivals where the public can observe meteor showers and eclipses, use telescopes and learn more about space.
To start, Badlands National Park in South Dakota is hosting its annual Astronomy Festival on July 14-16, which is designed for space science professionals, amateur astronomers, youth groups, educators and visitors to have “a stellar experience,” according to its website.
The festival lasts three days and has previously offered activities such as visits to a planetarium, telescope viewings and presentations by guest speakers, but events vary from year to year. The event is free of charge.
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia will also be hosting its Night Sky Festival on Aug. 11-13. It will offer events similar to those at the Badlands Astronomy Festival, including guest speakers, kids’ activities and of course, stargazing. The event is free of charge with admission to the park. This festival happens to take place during the Perseid meteor shower’s peak, so you may get some great viewing of shooting stars.
In case your summer is packed and you miss these events, the national parks will continue to host stargazing events throughout the year, including the Great Basin Astronomy Festival in Nevada on Sept. 14-16 and the Joshua Tree Night Sky Festival in California on Oct. 13-14.
One major benefit of stargazing at a national park is that light pollution is very low, which makes visibility excellent. In fact, several of the national parks have received certification from the International Dark Sky Association for their excellent nighttime viewing.
In order to be offered a certificate, locations need to provide “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” according to the website.