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Tips for Stargazing on a Camping Trip

by Barbara Rogers

Aug 4, 2022

© Fabio Lamanna | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

A camping trip in a national park or other area away from city lights is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Children living in cities rarely have a chance to see the myriad of stars that fill the sky, so stargazing can be a new experience to enrich your family travels. These tips will make stargazing fun — and a learning experience as well.

 

  • Check the phases of the moon. A full or nearly full moon has the same effect as city lights, so you won’t see many stars.

 

  • Find a field where you can see as low on the horizon as possible.

 

  • Take a blanket or reclining lawn chairs so everyone can look directly up at the sky.

 

  • Bring a sky map or a pocket guide to constellations. Looking for specific constellations makes stargazing a lot more fun for kids, and if they are learning about the ancient world in school, they may recognize some of the Greek gods and goddesses the stars are named for.

 

  • Take a red-filter flashlight or cover your regular flashlight with red cellophane so your eyes can adjust to the dark while still allowing you to see where you are going and read a sky chart.

 

  • If the kids can’t think of being without their phones, there are also apps for stargazing.  Stellarium shows the sky set to your location and features a red night mode so your eyes can stay adjusted to the dark.

 

  • The best places for stargazing are parks identified as Dark-Sky Preserves. These special areas are free of light and air pollution, and many of the parks also have special programs where families can learn about the stars, planets and moon.

 

  • Glacier National Park and many others in the western United States have Dark Sky Preserves, and elsewhere, you can find them at Buffalo National River in Arkansas, Katahdin Woods National Monument in Maine, Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

 

  • Canada boasts 13 of these parks, including Grasslands National Park and Wood Buffalo National Park in the west, and Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick.

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