Dark Skies

If you didn’t travel to somewhere dark with the RV to view the Persid Meteor Showers last month, fear not - there are more opportunities in the next couple of months to stare at the night sky. The great thing about Fall stargazing is it gets dark earlier so you don’t always have to stay up too late to enjoy the show.

As most RVers know, some of the best views of the night skies are found far from the city lights in America’s state and national parks. Plus, RVs offer one of the easiest ways to travel to the parks and enjoy the heavenly show in comfort.

In many locations, it can be as easy as reclining in your lounge chair outside your RV with a cup of hot chocolate or if it is really nippy out, go in the RV, open all the window blinds, turn out all the lights and gaze from the warmth of your RV. Following is a far from inclusive list of Fall events held in the western states that combine the opportunity to camp in your RV and enjoy an evening of stargazing led by a park ranger.

Night Sky Festival October 28 through 30 Joshua Tree National Park, California 

Explore the Dark Skies Saturdays through October 1 Hovenweep National Monument on the boarder of Colorado and Utah  

Idaho Star Party September 30 and October 1 Bruneau Dunes State Park Bruneau, Idaho   

Great Basin Astronomy Festival September 29 to October 1 Great Basin National Park, Nevada 

If you can’t make any of the above events there are a couple of lesser known meteor showers occurring this fall:

The Draconids - October 7

If you’re not a night owl, the Draconids are perfect for you because peak activity begins at nightfall. Expect just a few meteors falling in the northern sky every hour. The meteor shower originates at the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon, hence the name Draconids.

The South Taurids - November 4 – November 5

The South Taurids meteor shower is ideal for those that like to stay up late or get up really early. Either way from just after midnight through the pre-dawn hours of November 4th & 5th is the time to have your eyes focused on the night sky. Though considered a small shower (it has a predicted rate of perhaps five meteors per hour at its peak) The Taurids are known for having a high percentage of flamboyant fireballs.

If you are looking for a park to enjoy the two shows listed above visit the IDA International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) website where you will find a list of international parks to watch from, luckily most are in the United State. International Dark Sky Parks are lands possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.

Another resource for finding a great stargazing site is Fodor’s Travel, click here for their list of the 10 Best Stargazing Sites in the US.

If you haven’t stargazed with your RV before, here are some basic tips:

1)    Find a site using the references above and camp in the darkest most remote area possible
2)    Bring a blanket, pad or something else comfortable to lay on so you can look up. If you have a reclining camp lounge chair they wok great for stargazing. Bring an extra blanket to wrap around you before you settle into your chair.
3)    Allow at least 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness
4)    While a campfire is part of the camping experience, it has no place in stargazing, so extinguish it before peak stargazing times and give your eyes time to adjust to the dark skies.

Now that you know where and when to go; load up the RV (don’t forget the popcorn!), get out there this Fall and enjoy the show.