June 20th is National Moon Day, the day we all take a moment to remember the time Neil Armstrong took that “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. That was back in 1969, so this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing.
Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the world’s population live in places that are so polluted with light that they rarely get a good look at the night sky. Sure, you can catch a glimpse of the moon above all that neon, but when was the last time you could really see its deep craters and valleys?
In honor of National Moon Day, we’re giving you a list of places where the skies are dark enough to see the planets, milky way and moon with no man-made interference. Even if you don’t make it out of the city this year, it’s a good star to making your own list of destinations for the world’s newest adventure craze – ASTROTOURISM!
- La Palma, Canary Islands
This volcanic island in the Canary Islands archipelago has skies that are so clear, UNESCO named the whole place a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve. It might not be as well known as Tenerife or Gran Canaria but you’ll still find terrific beaches where you can take a nap after all that star-gazing.
- The Himalayas, Nepal
Home to Mount Everest, the Himalayas stretch across northern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal. You don’t need to battle to the top of K2 to get a good view of the moon, however, as there are numerous treks for beginners in the foothills of Nepal and India. If the weather cooperates, you’ll be guaranteed a great view of the night sky.
- Mont-Megantic International Dark Sky Reserve, Canada
Located in the province of Quebec, this was the first designated International Dark Sky Reserve on the planet. You can get a terrific view of the moon, planets and stars with the naked eye, but there are also telescopes at the summit that let you see right into the craters on the moon’s surface.
- Western Australia
There aren’t too many towns in the outback and the National Parks of Western Australia are a favorite among moon watchers. The skies will look unfamiliar to people living in the northern hemisphere, and you might have to ask a local to point out the Southern Cross, but the Milky Way will be right overhead.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
After Alaska, Wyoming is America’s least populated state and almost entirely devoid of light pollution. 96% of Yellowstone Park is in Wyoming, which means you’ll get a great view of the moon from just about anywhere you camp in its 3,472 square miles.
- Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve – Ireland
It’s located on the Iveragh Peninsula with mountains on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, meaning there’s no ambient light in this scenic part of Ireland. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a meteor shower and on a clear night you can spot the Andromeda Galaxy over 2.5 million light years away. And the moon makes an appearance here too.The bottom line is that if you want to get a really good look at the moon, you need to start by getting out of the city. There are now over 60 dark sky parks in the United States alone, promoting astronomy and moon gazing in places that are being kept light pollution-free. Head for the hills, the desert or the beach on National Moon Day and spend a few wondrous moments with the galaxy’s most alluring planet.