Exactly where to go stargazing in Colorado, from parks to little towns


The Milky Way galaxy in a photo taken close to Lake City. (Michael Underwood, Specific to The Denver Post)

Ever considering the fact that Ann Donoghue became president of the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society, she’s harbored an obsessive hatred for poor lighting.

Any lamp that spews light into the sky, as an alternative of, say, onto a sidewalk, or puts out adequate light to rival the sun earns some gnashing teeth from Donoghue, who lives in Fort Collins.

“It drives me nuts,” she stated.

Of course, she’s supposed to notice these factors. That poor lighting, what stargazers contact light pollution, prevents us from seeing all but the brightest stars.

Donoghue hates vibrant lights a lot more than Gizmo, but she is not as star crazy as you may well consider. She does not personal a telescope massive adequate for you to see Russia from your property or a galaxy far, far away (while some in her organization do have one particular). She prefers to bring a excellent but easy pair of binoculars and travel to some dark spot.

Locating these dark locations, in reality, is the most significant element of any stargazing trip.

“It’s like birding,” Donoghue stated. “You’re out to see as numerous factors as you can.”

(There’s a list, by the way, for amateur astronomers to verify off nebulas and other options of the evening sky the very same way a birder may well verify off a Forty-spotted Pardalote.)

A dark sky black adequate to show off the Milky Way is an endangered species in Colorado, thanks to all these vibrant lights, specifically in urban centers. The metro location is the greatest culprit, of course — Donoghue even sees that glow from Cheyenne 60 miles away when she’s out on a stargazing trip — but poor lighting can blot out stars anyplace.

Even so, there are numerous locations in Colorado you can go that will supply up a excellent show, and a handful of dark locations left in the state exactly where you can see the Milky Way. And they’re not as far as you consider.

Rocky Mountain National Park, for instance, is an hour away for most people, and in the summer season the park hosts evening sky applications by way of August. (Just after a busy summer season, Cynthia Langguth, RMNP’s evening sky coordinator and park ranger, stated there may possibly be classes this fall. Verify the web site for a lot more information.) There are numerous lookout spots, and the park even functions with Estes Park and Grand Lake to dim their lights and hold the evening sky dark in the park, Langguth stated.

“The much less tangible factors the park tries to preserve can be a lot more difficult, such as fresh water or clean air or the evening sky simply because we do not have as considerably manage more than these,” Langguth stated. “But even then, that tends to make our evening sky even a lot more worthwhile and a springboard to speak about the worth of darkness on so numerous levels, to our animals and plant life but also as our spot in the universe.”

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The evening sky remains vulnerable even when a metro location remains fairly far away. Pawnee National Grassland close to Greeley was a well-liked spot to stargaze, but it was dimmed by oil and gas improvement, Donoghue stated. Now, these oil rigs are in spot at final, so the vibrant lights are largely gone once more.

Several stargazers favor to camp on the Pawnee, which is permitted inside 300 feet of most Forest Service roads on public land. The Pawnee is a mix of public and private land, so campers may possibly will need a visitor map, stated Reghan Cloudman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. Several other individuals favor the relative comfort of the nearby Crow Valley Campground, which gives a view dark adequate to see the Milky Way.

“Obviously the farther out you go, the fewer lights there are,” Cloudman stated.

Residents of some darker towns in Colorado hope to preserve the evening sky. Phillip Virden was living in Texas in the early 1970s when he took his initially camping trip to Lake City and saw the Milky Way for the initially time. He’s been a resident ever considering the fact that, and owns the town’s film theater.

“I looked up and believed, ‘What in the globe is that?’ ” Virden stated. “I was deeply moved.”

He’s considering the fact that worked to get the town certified by the International Dark Sky Association, an organization that functions to preserve the darkest corners of the globe and raise awareness about light pollution.

In Colorado, Norwood, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff are currently designated Dark Sky Communities.

“That dark sky designation would be amazing,” Virden stated, “but the actual notion is to boost awareness about it. The dilemma is obtaining worse, and folks are not even conscious of it. I consider it is an urgent matter.”

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The excellent news, Virden stated, is that the interest to hold our skies dark way is developing.

“I’ve visited so numerous of these locations, and they’re amazing,” he stated. “The evening sky is for everybody.”

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Updated Sep. 11 at four:26 p.m.The following info has been added to this write-up: Far more information on Colorado’s current dark sky communities have been added.


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