As a child, I was a backseat passenger on a trip from Nashville, TN to Asheville, NC. Somewhere in the Smoky Mountains, I looked up and saw more stars than I’d seen in my whole life. Being a city girl, that lesson in light pollution was the first time I realized all I had been missing.

Today, finding places where one can view the night sky in the way we could have one hundred years ago is problematic. According to Dark Skies Awareness, increased urban sky glow is responsible for the disappearance of the Milky Way from our view in the US. That is why Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac is a valuable resource for planning your next vacation.

Publishers Summary: Witnessing the sweep of the Milky Way, the remains of comets burning up in our atmosphere, or the shimmering aurora, we better understand the universe and our place in it. Lonely Planet’s  Dark Skies, the first world’s guide to astrotourism, can help you experience all of this and more first-hand.

Meticulously researched by dark sky expert Valerie Stimac, this comprehensive companion includes guides to 35 dark-sky sites and national parks, where to see the aurora, the next decade of total solar eclipses and how to view rocket launches, plus the lowdown on commercial space flight, observatories and meteor showers.

Dark Skies  is divided into sections to help you plan your dark sky tour:

  1. Stargazing focuses on the basics of appreciating the dark sky, with an overview on how to stargaze and what types of objects to look for, as well as tips for the urban stargazer.
  2. Dark Places is devoted to 35 of the best places around the globe for stargazing and experiencing the night sky, including sites designated by the Dark Sky Association.
  3. Astronomy in Action features some of the world’s top research facilities and observatories,where you can get a closer look at space science.
  4. Meteor Showers has everything you need to know about the most consistent and impressive meteor showers that happen annually.
  5. Aurora is divided into two parts, one focusing on the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and the other on the aurora australis in the southern hemisphere.
  6. Eclipses follows the schedule of total solar eclipses over the next decade. If you’ve never experienced totality, here is your definitive guide to planning your trip.
  7. Launches helps you experience a different side of astrotourism: rocket launches and the countries that allow you to travel to see them.
  8. Space Tourism discusses the future of humans in space – including you! The major players in the evolving space tourism market are detailed, plus the world’s most common destinations and experiences.

If you don’t have the time or opportunity to travel at this time, you can still enjoy a starry, starry night with one of the library’s Orion StarBlast 4.5″ tabletop telescopes.

Each telescope has a bag that contains an instruction manual, an eyepiece zoom 8 to 24mm, and a copy of the book, Constellations of the Northern Sky by Gary Mechler and Mark Chartrand. You can ask one of the OFPL staff to print out a map of this month’s night sky.

If you are interested in learning more about space, the constellations, or astronomy, we have plenty of resources available.

Happy reading and stargazing!

More Books on Space:

Seeing Stars by Sara Gillingham – This artful and accessible introduction to constellations equips readers with the information they need to locate, name, and explain all 88 internationally recognized constellations. Each cluster of stars is featured alongside the “story” (mythological or historical) behind its naming, tips on how to find it, what times of year it is visible, and key stars and asterisms within its grouping. Complete with star maps and a glossary, this keepsake volume of visual reference and beauty is perfect for inquisitive young stargazers. 213 pages, for ages 9-13.

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