15
Feb

Amazing Astronomy: Three Extraordinary Stargazing Experiences

by Alan Rider

Galileo Galilei Astronomy

Galileo Galilei

While wandering around aimlessly online last night, I discovered that today is the 446th birthday of Galileo Galilei, the guy widely considered to be the father of modern astronomy.  Which got me to thinking about some of the amazing stargazing experiences I’ve had over the years.

My all-time favorite has to be the weekend we spent at Benson, Arizona’s Astronomers Inn.  This four-room bed-and-breakfast located an hour southeast of Tucson isn’t much to look at.  But its amenities—including an in-house observatory where your own personal astronomer will roll back the roof and take you on an eye-opening tour of the galaxy using one of their eight telescopes—made for one of the most memorable nights I’ve spent in any property anywhere.

Then there’s a program at the nearby Kitt Peak Observatory that sure to be an unforgetable once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone who’s ever looked up at the night sky with a sense of wonder.  Along with its more modest public stargazing sessions, the observatory—which sports the largest collection of optical research telescopes in the world—offers an Advanced Observing Program that allows a limited number of visitors to view and photograph deep space objects through a telescope that would make a professional astronomer drool.  Note that these sessions fills up fast, so don’t delay if you’re interested.

Kitt Peak Observatory

Photo of M51 galaxy taken by visitor in Kitt Peak's Advanced Observing Program

Finally, there’s a lot to be said for just laying on your back gazing up at a night sky so dark the stars look like the aftermath of a powdered sugar donut binge on the dark blue suit of the universe.  And for such low-tech stargazing it’s hard to beat southeastern Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument, a spot so ideal it was designated as the world’s first International Dark Sky Park.

Spend some time at any of these places and chances are you’ll be thinking “Galileo, eat your heart out!”

If you’ve had an amazing stargazing experience, tell us about it via the Leave A Comment link below.

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1 Herrin Larkan February 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Hello there Alan. Thanks for the link to your article here from Twitter.

The low-tech stuff is often the most inspiring in that you can do it anywhere. Fortunately we have some great spots here in Aus too with very few lights to obscure the stars.

Would love to see the stars from the Dark Sky Park one day!

My amazing stargazing experience was the first time that I saw Jupiter through a Dobsonian. It just leapt out at me and came to life for the first time. Jupiter became a real thing for me that night.

2 Alan Rider February 17, 2010 at 8:53 am

Yeah, I know — when you look at what you thought was this little dot of light and you see all this detail it’s kind of mind-blowing!

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