Stargazing in Idaho

Posted by Hughes Group Blog Team on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019 at 11:48am.

 

If you are anything like me, one of the simple pleasures you get out of life is enjoying the stars or moon and imagining all of the distance between you and there. The moon is more than 200,000 miles away and still dominates our sky whenever there are no clouds to get in the way. The world we live on is fantastic and the skies above are part of what makes that so true. Nothing gives a cool night more beauty than the swath of the Milky Way overhead and crickets chirping in the distance. The only problem is, there are a lot of places on this planet where it can be hard to check out the moon, let alone the stars of the Milky Way. If you live in a city, you might never have the opportunity to discover the stars above unless you really try. That is one of the really great things about Idaho. There are some big cities in Idaho but there is also a lot of uninhabited space that is ideal for doing some stargazing. I want to give you a little tutorial on how to get started with stargazing if you are interested and tell you all about why Idaho is the ideal place to be a stargazer.

I want to explain a little bit about why cities are so bad when it comes to stargazing. Mostly, it is because cities have a lot of light, though part of the problem also comes from having a bunch of buildings. If you are surrounded by light that is much more powerful than the stars above, it becomes more difficult to stargaze the much smaller and delicate points of light they make. In order to actually discover anything worth stargazing, it's best to get outside the city and out to a place where there are no or very few lights. This might take some effort and driving, but it is usually fairly uncomplicated. If you are living in Southern Idaho you are going to have to head north for a while, but it will not be long before you can find a nice and dark patch of sky and take it in.

One of the wonderful things about stargazing is that is it a dirt cheap hobby to have. People go all out and buy telescopes and different kinds of tools that will blow up parts of the sky so they can be better viewed, but you do not need that. All you need is that dark patch of sky I just mentioned and a willingness to wait. You do not even need to know where anything is in the sky to enjoy it. However, I would recommend that you take some time to learn the sky and what might be showing up in your area. A sky with Venus in it is just as beautiful as a sky without Venus, but it is still really cool to point at a particular dot in the sky and realize that there is a whole different planet than the one you reside. That thought alone is exciting and it is cool to have that information available on demand. Figuring out what direction to find certain things and what constellations might be visible can be a little tricky but I would say that it is completely worth it.

Probably the chief reason Idaho is so great for stargazing is the Dark Sky Reserve that can be found within its borders. Across the United States, there are only a few places that exist that have been labeled as Dark Sky Reserves. These are areas where the government has stipulated that few enough cities and towns exist that there is very little light pollution to block off quality star viewing. Idaho has one of these places in its Sawtooth Mountain Range. Not much development has happened in this area over the years since Idaho started to get built up with human civilization, mostly because it is just so hard to get there, but this is to your benefit. If you are willing to trek up into the mountains you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking view imaginable. Make sure you bring a blanket to lie down while you explore the galaxy in comfort. You may even consider bringing a little telescope as well if you can get it where you are going.

I want to finish this discussion by mentioning there are always events going on in Idaho that have something to do with stargazing. There are also observatories dotted across the state that might help you get more involved with stargazing. You can learn more about the professional practice of astronomy and also get a few lessons on what you can do on your own. Observatories are always putting on events that are open to the public where experts will bring out telescopes and point them at really cool planets and stars. There are a lot of people that know a lot about astronomy who are happy to pass on that information.

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