What’s the fastest-disappearing natural phenomenon? Dark skies. As cities expand, the night skies are flooded with light, dimming our views of the complex, mystical wonders of the heavens that inspired our ancestors.
We are still fascinated by the night skies, and many of us take time on vacation to spend our evenings outdoors gazing up into the darkness and its mysteries.
Luckily, there are places around the world preserving the darkness and celestial visions. Dark sky preserves are found in some of the most remote corners of the world, but some are closer than you’d think. North America’s western regions have some of the best night skies close to home, and a number of events in the fall help celebrate the wonders of the night skies.
Nevada is home to the darkest skies in the U.S. mainland. The state also has one of the only official Dark Sky Sanctuaries recognized by the International Dark Sky Association.
That’s why you’ll want to be in Nevada in October. On October 14, 2023, the biggest celestial event of the year happens above Nevada. For the first time in 11 years, there’s a solar eclipse that will be visible with the phenomenon where only the outer edge of the sun “a Ring of Fire” will be apparent, with the moon blocking the rest.
The viewing path of the eclipse runs directly through some of Nevada’s rural communities, which are setting up to welcome visitors flocking to experience the celestial event in person.
Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is one of the best spots to witness the event with a reported eclipse time of 3 minutes and 29 seconds.
In celebration, White Pine County is hosting a community-wide Ring of Fire Eclipse Festival from the 11-16 October. The festival will feature trail rides, an aliens and UFO event and a pub crawl.
Visitors can also hop aboard an early 20th century locomotive at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely to view the eclipse. The Solar Eclipse Limited will head to a viewing area outside of Ely in Keystone. Passengers will be joined by NASA-affiliated interpreters and special eclipse-viewing glasses are provided.
Travel Alberta/ META Productions
To the north in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival returns in October, 2023, for the 13th year in a row.
Astronauts, aurora chasers, and space enthusiasts from across North America will gather from October 13 to 22 for a one-of-a-kind annual event promising cosmic concerts, fascinating speakers, and supernova-sized experiences.
Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival takes place within the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserve, and stargazers will find plenty to dazzle their telescopes at the 2023 festival. Highlights of this year’s festival include:
· 'Illuminating' Speakers: Renowned speakers like retired astronaut Marc Garneau, award-winning spaceflight history writer Emily Carney and NASA scientist Dr. Kartik Sheth will gather to share their knowledge and insights about everything from space funerals to cosmic weather trackers. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions, get inspired, and connect with like-minded enthusiasts in small group settings.
· Night Sky Photography: Beginners to advanced levels can learn from local experts and capture the beauty of Jasper's dark skies.
Travel Alberta/ META Productions
· Drone Light Show: Two hundred choreographed drones will light up the night sky.
· New events: The ever-popular Science for Breakfast series will be joined by new events: Talk Nerdy to Me, the Science of Brewing, and more.
· Stargazing Sessions: With guides on hand from the Jasper Planetarium, you can experience the thrill of observing distant galaxies through the biggest telescopes in the Rockies.
· Family-Friendly Activities: Kids can enjoy rocketry demonstrations, geocaching adventures, and interactive science exhibits.
· Cosmic Concerts: Feel the vastness of the universe at Symphony Under the Stars, at the luxurious Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. You can hear the drumbeat of the mountains at an Indigenous sunset ceremony, and rock out to the fun, futuristic songs performed by a Dark Sky Band.
Western Canada and the U.S. are home to some of the most beautiful, remote places, but remote doesn't mean you have to rough it to enjoy outdoor life. Luxury lodges and western resorts provide all the comforts as well as incredible views and access to the night skies.