One of life's little pleasures is standing outside on a clear, dark night and simply looking up at the starry tapestry passing overhead. But with light pollution an ever increasing problem for amateur astronomers, the prospect of finding a dark observing site that is both accessible and convenient is becoming more and more difficult to accomplish. Where can we set up our telescopes and enjoy the true majesty of the universe?
You just might find your astronomical nirvana here. This constantly expanded continent-wide dark-sky observing site directory lists dozens of observing sites in 37 states and six Canadian provinces, with new sites being added regularly. These sites have all been contributed by people just like you and me, who enjoy viewing the real universe, away from city lights and haze.
Take a look at the map or list below. States and provinces that have dark-sky sites listed here are shown in red on the map and in bold-face type on the list below.
Canadian amateur astronomer Attila Danko's Clear Sky Charts have been added to many of the observing sites listed here. These useful tools use meteorological data from the Canadian Meteorological Centre to predict if and when it will be clear from the site over the next 48 hours. Each clock actually lists three predictions: cloud cover, transparency, and darkness. These appear as three horizontal rows of squares, which vary in color from dark blue to white.
"Cloud" predicts cloud cover, while "tran" forecasts sky transparency. As the scale at the bottom of each clock shows, the darker the blue, the better. White indicates total overcast. The third row, "darkness," shows when the sky will be dark, assuming no light pollution and a clear sky. Black is a dark sky, varying degrees of blue show interference from moonlight or twilight, while white indicates daytime.
The date and times of predictions are shown below the three rows. "Local time" is just that, the local time on your clock or watch, but expressed in 24-hour format (e.g., military time). Note that the hours are stacked vertically.
Will it be clear tonight? Take a look for yourself. . .
The Canadian Meteorological Centre issues predictions for sky transparency for the entire continent. As they explain:
Follow this link to their Sky Transparency Forecast For Astronomical Purposes.