Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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By Erin Kedzie

A medley of culture, science and outdoorsmanship, stargazing is the horn of plenty of outside activities. Though you may have to venture outside cities and their light pollution, any patch of dark, uninhabited sky can contain a wealth of nocturnal discoveries. State parks are a great destination because they are distanced from city lights and residential areas.

By immersing yourself in the inkiness of the heavens, you enter into the classroom of the universe and thousands of years of human history — traditions, beliefs and mindsets from the Greeks to the Native Americans. Equip yourself with a repertoire of traditional stories and myths to share as you view their starry equivalent through your telescope lens. A classical education never goes out of style.

And neither do scientific phenomena. As you gaze and observe, you can’t help but ask questions. It can be mind-expanding to think that the light from some stars took 25 million years to reach you and that they might have actually exploded since then. Or that the universe is expanding and is currently 92 billion light-years wide.

Beyond the science and history, stargazing is a wonderful outdoor activity. You’re navigating different landscapes by night and getting involved in what we often forget is our largest natural resource — the firmament. So pull a Sagittarius and train your weathered eye skyward. Have an upturned face and bathe in a different kind of light.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Dark in the Park: For a listing of community stargazing events at state parks, visit tpwd.texas.gov/calendar/stargazing.

On a Budget? Some outlets rent telescopes and make shipments cross-country, if you’re not ready to buy.

Dark Skies: For a heightened experience, traverse the state for Dark Sky Places, a sought-after recognition given by the International Dark-Sky Association. There are only 30 sites in the U.S. and five in Texas, including three parks:
Copper Breaks State Park
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Big Bend National Park

Star Party: The McDonald Observatory in West Texas hosts one of the state’s most popular stargazing events every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evening.

Ingredients for a Night Sky Adventure

Telescope: While many stars are visible to the naked eye, a telescope will give you a better view of the heavens.

Binoculars: Want something a little more portable than a telescope? Try a good pair of binoculars.

Red Flashlight: Once your vision adjusts to the dark, the last thing you need is a bright light in your eyes. Red lights won’t harm night vision.

Star Charts: Constellations are seasonal. To navigate their sidereal rotations, star charts (paper or app-based) can help guide you.

Myths & Tales: Knowing the names and stories behind the constellations adds enjoyment to an evening under the stars.

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Related stories

State Parks Embrace Measures to Protect Dark Skies

3 Days in the Field: Starry Nights in West Texas


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