What to Know for Your First Visit to a Dark Sky Park

As if you didn’t have enough reasons to spend time outside, the rising popularity of dark sky areas and reserves is just one more outdoor activity that you have to take advantage of.

Although dark sky reserves are a relatively new addition to America’s excellent public lands, there are several areas in California that make it easy to find one whether you’re a Mammoth local or just a regular visitor from Southern California. To make things even easier, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a quick list of tips for your first visit. Check it out below, and if you find that you need any camping or outdoor gear then stop by ASO Mammoth on your way to see the dark skies!

Where to Find Dark Sky Parks

You’ll see various terms for dark sky parks such as dark sky reserves and areas, but the basic concept is an area where the distance from bright urban light, natural geography, or a combination of the two results in low light pollution that allows visitors to see the light of the stars clearly.

The reason why there are many different terms for dark sky parks is because the areas can simply be a remote piece of land or a protected public land that doubles as an excellent place to view the night sky. For example, Death Valley National Park is an excellent place for dark sky viewing, but it’s also a national park while Benton Springs is a remote location that also
happens to have low light pollution.

Plan Around an Event

Whichever type of area you choose for your visit, it’s best if you plan around an astronomical event instead of the first weekend you have free.

The most relevant example is the moon phase. If you visit a dark sky park when there is a full moon then the light of the moon will obscure the light of the stars, which is why the best time to visit a dark sky park is during a new moon. You can also plan your visit so that you can witness a more unique event such as a meteor shower under the clear night skies. Lastly, if you’re new to dark skies then there are plenty of amateur astronomer groups the meet up regularly and are usually very welcoming to people visiting for the first time. Whether they only give you tips on how to view the skies or go as far as letting you view the stars through their equipment, these groups are a great resource!

Preserve Your Night Vision

As mentioned earlier, light pollution is the enemy of dark skies because it prevents our eyes from adjusting to the darkness. For example, if you use your car headlights or flashlights while camping then you won’t be able to see the stars well. Even the lights inside your car can affect your night vision, but that doesn’t mean you need to camp in complete darkness. Red light will provide illumination without affecting your night vision, so invest in a headlamp with red light and remember to avoid turning on the headlights and interior lights of your car while viewing dark skies.

Be Considerate of Others

Find your camp site before night fall so that you and anyone else camping near you won’t be affected by flashlights and headlights while you do so. Also follow all rules and regulations set by the dark sky area concerning music, food, and alcohol, and remember to respect everyone camping near you!

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