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Starry Nights

HOW TO STARGAZE AT HOME, AROUND BOULDER AND THROUGHOUT COLORADO

Article by Emily Tobiason

Photography by Max Seigal - MaxWilderness.com

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Whether you are looking to decompress, explore the outdoors or simply make your inner child happy, stargazing is an activity that is sure to help you take a step back and relax. Conveniently, the Boulder area (and all of Colorado) is home to breathtaking views and miles of open space. All you need is something comfortable to sit on and warm layers, and you can enjoy starry skies just about anywhere. 

Here are several astronomical dates to keep in mind during the next few months as you plan a stargazing adventure:

  • September 10 Harvest Moon — This is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, when both hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight.

  • September 25 New Moon — There will be no moonlight in the night sky, making for perfect stargazing conditions.

  • September 26 Jupiter at Opposition — Spot Jupiter as a small bright dot all night as it reaches its closest proximity to the Earth. 

  • October 8-9 Draconid Meteor Shower — Best viewed Saturday evening in dark skies, this shower may produce several meteors per hour. 

  • November 8 Total Lunar Eclipse — Viewers in Colorado will only be able to see part of the eclipse, but look out for a red-tinted moon as the Earth aligns directly in between the sun and the moon in the early morning.

In Your Backyard

There’s no easier place to decompress and enjoy the outdoors than in your own backyard. In good weather, grab your favorite people, blankets and snacks to watch the sunset, then cuddle up for a night of magical sightseeing. Special gadgets like telescopes or binoculars aren’t necessary, but be sure to bring them out if they are accessible to you.

Stargazing apps like Night Sky share information about the stargazing conditions at any location, while visualizing and locating constellations and planets. By pointing your device upwards and scanning the sky, viewers can see it come to life. Search “stargazing” in your app store and you are sure to find an app that suits your needs. 

Around Boulder 

Hiking fanatics can rest their legs for a minute and stargaze after taking a night hike to the peak of their favorite trail. The farther you are from city lights, the better you will be able to see the night sky.

There are also several spots to drive to around Boulder. The Boulder Star on Flagstaff mountain lights November 11, but the location remains perfect for watching the sunset or stars year-round. Find parking on Flagstaff Road and watch from the trail or perhaps safely atop your car! 

The Fiske Planetarium located on CU’s campus offers educational and entertainment shows year-round. From live talks on galaxies to star programs, there are plenty of ways to learn about our solar system and our place in it. Visit Colorado.edu/Fiske/ for more information on upcoming shows and live talks. 

A Weekend Away

The Wet Mountain Valley is home to Colorado’s first designated International Dark Sky Communities, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. The title, given by the International Dark Sky Association, recognizes cities that work to reduce light pollution through proper outdoor lighting and community education efforts. 

The town’s accomplishments have led to visible dark skies and incredible Milky Way views. An added bonus, the towns are only a three-hour drive from Boulder and offer plenty of hotels and cottages to stay in. 

Experience the starry skies on Main Street in Westcliffe, or head to the Smokey Jack Observatory (SJO) to look through one of Colorado’s most state-of-the-art telescopes. Public Star Parties scheduled throughout the month (both in-person and virtually) allow attendees to look at various constellations, galaxies and planets through this telescope at no-cost. 

Westcliffe also offers reservations for Amish Wagon Rides, which pull visitors through the countryside day or night. Another stargazing spot is the DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area, just five miles north of Westcliffe. Settle down by the water or get comfortable at one of the picnic areas to see the stars.

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