Did you know that Bluff, Utah is within an hour’s drive of two Dark Sky Parks? April 4th – 10th, 2016 is Dark Sky Week and a great time to plan a trip to a designated Dark Sky Park near Bluff for a stargazing extravaganza.
Outdoor lighting in many metropolitan areas has virtually hidden the stars. Most people, especially those residing east of the Mississippi river, have never seen the Milky Way.
The remoteness of the area near Bluff offers a great opportunity to experience the wonder of the night sky without light pollution. Two National Monuments near Bluff are designated Dark Sky Parks.
Natural Bridges National Monument is 56 miles from Bluff and the world’s first, certified International Dark Sky Park because it has zero light pollution. You can choose from ranger led programs or explore on your own. In 2016, Natural Bridges will again offer ranger led programs several evenings a week, and will include new topics such as archeoastronomy. The ranger led programs also offer you a chance to glimpse the dark sky with Natural Bridges’ telescope and powerful binoculars and learn a little more about the heavenly bodies above you.
Specific Natural Bridges 2016 dark sky programs will be announced later this month on the Natural Bridges Facebook site, or on the park’s website. Natural Bridges states the best times for stargazing are around the time of a New Moon. In 2016, New Moon dates are April 7, May 6, June 4, July 4, August 2, September 1, September 30, October 30, November 29 and December 28.
Hovenweep National Monument is 34 miles from Bluff and was designated a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park in 2014. Hovenweep will offer ranger led programs every Saturday in 2016 from April 16th – October 1st. The programs take place at the Visitor’s Center parking area. Hovenweep also has a telescope which can be used for viewing.
Hovenweep was the sight of six prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan villages, and we know that Ancestral Puebloans were keen skywatchers. At Hovenweep, you can learn more about the importance of celestial events in Ancestral Puebloan life.
So, find a New Moon on your calendar and book your accommodations in Bluff. Find your camera’s instruction manual and brush up on your night photography. You’ll want to make certain to capture the perfect shot of your star date.