How to spot the Milky Way: Starry nights at Channel Islands National Park

Milky Way over Santa Rosa Island

top photo by Jeff Bartlett

blog by Visit Ventura

National parks are known to be the best places to see the stars and Channel Islands National Park is no exception. As a matter of fact, a study found that Channel Islands National Park has some of the lowest levels of light pollution compared to all other national parks!

National Park Service scientists and researches from UCLA conducted a study of light pollution at national parks by examining satellite data between 1992 and 2012. In comparison to 59 other national parks, they found that Channel Islands National Park has some of the lowest levels of light. This makes it a spectacular setting for stargazing!

Starry night at Channel Islands National Park

Tips and Tricks

Night skies bring memorable opportunities for curious minds to dive into space. Remember to bring a blanket and mat. Comfortably lying back is the best way to look up at the sky. For the very best views, plan a trip during clear nights and new moon cycles when the sky is darkest. Then be patient. It takes human eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to our best night sky light sensitivity. Amateur stargazing doesn’t require a telescope, though binoculars can be fun.

Find the North Star

which serves as a compass in the night sky, pointing north year round.

Find the International Space Station

or one of many satellites orbiting the earth. Look for a distant point of light traveling the skies.

Find Planets

by looking for points of light with a steady glow. If glimmering or flashing lights surround a brighter, even, stationary light, chances are it’s a planet.

Find Constellations

or groups of stars that form patterns in the sky that look like animals or people often named after figures in Greek mythology.

Milky Way over Channel Islands National Park

Find the Milky Way

Every star your eyes can see is located in the Milky Way galaxy but when most people talk about seeing the milky way, they are referring to the brightest part of the milky way where dust lanes, nebulas, and stars cluster together. 90% of the world’s population live in areas too bright to see the Milky Way but Channel Islands National Park serves as the type of celestial preserves we need to embrace the beauty of night skies. The milky way itself contains about 100 billion stars -the scale of it in the night sky is huge! But don’t expect it to look like the photos. The way our eyes capture light is a little different from a camera. Look for a faint white glow stretching from the southern to the northeastern horizon. Constellations can be great markers.

Get stars in your eyes!

What are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Channel Islands National Park. Hike, kayak, spot wild and marine life, picnic, and take in endless ocean views during the day, then settle into the night for some of the best stargazing around.

 

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