A whole new world comes alive at night and is waiting to be explored. When you head out at night to stargaze, take your family or friends with you, be prepared for a cool night, and let your eyes adjust to the wonder above. Here are some ideas to make your experience memorable:
Sleep in your backyard on a starlit night. Watch the stars and planets move across the night sky.
Make a red flashlight. Use red paper or cellophane to cover a white flashlight. This will help you navigate at night without compromising your night vision!
Can you see the stars as well in your backyard with the porch light on? Try different light bulbs, even different light fixtures, so that you can see the stars better. Warm, amber colors are soft on the eyes.
In the Wilderness
Look for the Milky Way stretching across the night sky. What looks like a faint cloud is actually the light from millions and millions of distant stars. The Milky Way is our home galaxy and is best seen in summer and fall evening skies.
If the full moon is up, the Milky Way will be hard to see. Try going for a night hike instead! Let your eyes adjust to the moonlight and keep your flashlight turned off (but available for safety if needed).
In a National Park
Camp under the stars. What better way to experience the great outdoors than camping in a national park under a star-filled sky?
National parks are great places to get to know the animals that are nocturnal—wildlife that is awake at night and asleep during the day. Sit quietly and listen for these creatures.
Many national parks offer night sky programs, from telescope astronomy events to full moon walks with rangers. Other parks also have night sky programs, so be sure to check with your park if you are interested.
Experiencing the Obed
The Obed Wild and Scenic River looks much the same today as it did when the first white settlers strolled its banks in the late 1700s. While meagerly populated due to poor farming soil, the river was a hospitable fishing and hunting area for trappers and pioneers. Today, the Obed stretches along the Cumberland Plateau and offers visitors a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Starry night skies are an important part of the special places the National Park Service protects. Our national parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide amazing opportunities to experience this critical resource. Obed Wild & Scenic River is one of these special places with a truly dark night sky. Among Obed’s interpretive themes is a primary goal to reconnect life and nature by discussing the value of quiet, solitude, and even darkness in the noisy, frenetic, and developed world of the 21st century.
To qualify as an International Dark Sky Park, Obed demonstrated exceptional dark-sky conditions, and a strong commitment to preserving the park’s night sky resource for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of present and future generations. Since 2013, the park has offered year-round astronomy and dark sky interpretive programs, supported by a strong collaboration with local amateur astronomers from the ORION Astronomy Club in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Knoxville Observers in Knoxville, Tennessee.