Updated: Sep 19, 2021
There are a few things Wyoming doesn't have that make me a little sad- zoos, Whataburgers, super malls... but there are also things we don't have that bring me great joy- gang wars, tsunamis and light pollution. Random, maybe- but the latter is what I'm here to celebrate.
Wyoming skies are nothing short of otherworldly. If there ever was a place to make you feel like you can just reach out and touch the stars, it's inevitably in Wyoming. The fact that we have so many amazing places to view the night sky without the interference of light pollution is worth all the wind and tumbleweeds we dodge on the daily. I mean, have you SEEN the milky way from here?
Let's talk about light pollution for just a quick minute.
Take a look at this map: http://www.youcanseethemilkyway.com/light-pollution/ It's almost as if the east coast never had a dad shouting at them to "Turn the lights off, for crimany's sake!" However, looking at our neck of the woods- we got the memo- it's lights out and there's vast darkness just ripe for stargazing.
In 2016, scientists estimated that 99 percent of the continental United States and Europe experience some amount of light pollution.
National Geographic: "Our nights are getting brighter, and Earth is paying the price." Published April 2019. Written by Nadia Drake.
Whether you're an accomplished astronomer, or a backyard, binocular-gazing, beverage-in-your-other hand, star-appreciator, the Wyoming sky isn't too picky. She has gifts for everyone, and living in the present day and time we have even more good fortune, in the way of free sky-gazing tools to enhance our night sky experience.
Here's what you're going to need for the best Wyoming stargazing experience, ever:
1. A clear view of the sky with no obstructions or light sources nearby. This is Wyoming- that won't be hard to find. If you're fortunate to be in a part of the state with trees, get up as high as you can above the treeline. For many of us here- finding an area with no trees isn't difficult at all. Wyoming is already a high elevation viewing platform- and it often feels like you can reach right out and touch the skies.
2. Red Light. If you're planning on getting out and moving around- a red filter for your flashlight or smartphone is the best choice to allow your eyes to adjust quickly and not interfere with acclimating to the darkness. If you don't have a filter- cellophane will work. Or you can download one of the many NightVision apps for iphones and androids alike.
3. A crisp cold night. Hey! Now we're talking. It's Wyoming. We have these down pat. While summer sky gazing is something country crooners sing about, it's the cooler nights with lower humidity that yield the best results. And no full moons, either. The less moonshine- moon.. shine... you know, shine from the moon, not alcoholic beverages, the better. You can find phases of the moon here. Type in your location in the search bar and plan accordingly.
4. Cheap Binoculars. This of course, is strictly up to you. Depending on your level of commitment and dedication to the full-on best experience, you can do without binoculars- but trust me, you're going to want some. They really do enhance the experience.
5. A little patience. You'll need to give your eyes at least 15-20 minutes to adapt to the darkness so they become more sensitive to low light levels, and you can REALLY see the stars.
6. Amazing free apps. Now we are getting to the really good stuff. Click on the linked titles below to find out more.
From their website: "Stellarium Mobile FREE - Star Map is a planetarium app that shows exactly what you see when you look up at the stars. Identify stars, constellations, planets, comets, satellites (such as the ISS), and other deep sky objects in real time in the sky above you in just a few seconds, just by pointing the phone at the sky!" This app has 4.7 star rating and is the favorite and most used, by far.
Starwalk 2: From their website: "Star Walk is an astronomical application for stargazing in real-time with an interactive map of the night sky. Easy-to-use and informative, it is a perfect educational tool for space enthusiasts of all ages. Enjoy satellites overhead, find planets, and identify stars in the sky above you with Star Walk!"
Dark Site Finder: Find the darkest sky near you with this interactive map.
Spot the Space Station: Enter your city and town in the interactive map and see exactly when the ISS will be passing overhead. From their website: " Watch the International Space Station pass overhead from several thousand worldwide locations. It is the third brightest object in the sky and easy to spot if you know when to look up. Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster!"
So there you have it. All the reasons to grab someone close to you, an excuse to stay up late, and another perk to appreciate about living in Wonderful Wyoming.
FIND OUT MORE:
Wyoming Stargazing: https://www.wyomingstargazing.org/ "Our mission is to educate and inspire through Wyoming’s extraordinary skies and the Universe beyond. Our vision is to build an observatory and planetarium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming."
Travel Wyoming lists the 5 top reasons to Stargaze in Wyoming. Included in the write up is a list of their favorite viewing spots. https://travelwyoming.com/top-5-reasons-stargaze-wyoming
Planetariums in Wyoming:
CASPER: Casper Planetarium: https://casperplanetarium.com/
GILLETTE: Campbell County School District Planetarium: https://www.ccsd.k12.wy.us/Page/711
LARAMIE: Harry C. Vaughn Planetarium: http://www.uwyo.edu/physics/planetarium/
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