The 7 Best SoCal Desert Locations for Night Sky Viewing | KCET
The 7 Best SoCal Desert Locations for Night Sky Viewing
A road trip away from a city's bright lights on a clear night will be a treat for anyone who looks up to the skies. Here in Southern California, we're especially lucky to live in a place with some of the best night sky viewing in the continental United States. You just have to venture at least 100 miles away from Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Here are 7 spots in our local deserts that offer brilliant views:
1. Joshua Tree National Park is a classic stargazing destination and one with plenty of public programs during the winter and spring seasons. Most of the events take place at the Cottonwood Campground amphitheater, which is known as one of the darkest places in the park — only the glow from Palm Springs and a nearby truck stop affect the view. A complete listing of events and locations can be found here.
2. Farther south and completely enclosed by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is Borrego Springs, which in 2009 became the world's second International Dark Sky Community. The park was also named by USA Today as one of the top 10 places in the country to gaze at stars. Local night-sky buffs agree.
3. Tucked between Death Valley National Park and the Nevada border is the eccentric town of Tecopa, home to century-old mud hills, the Yaga Labrynith and popular hot springs. For years the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort has hosted star parties on new moon weekends, complete with a high-powered telescope pointed up at the galaxies.
4. Located in the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument off Route 66 is Amboy Crater, a 250-foot high volcanic cinder cone with 24 square miles of lava flow beyond it. This great night-sky spot was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1973.
5. The southern half of Mojave National Preserve offers what many believe is the single best spot to view stars. Far enough away from both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas metropolitan areas (and smaller cities), the Hole-in-the-Wall and Black Canyon campgrounds are popular for amateur and professional astronomers who want to spend the weekend camping and staring upwards. Also noted are the night skies seen from the Kelso Dunes.
6. Star parties are occasionally thrown by park rangers at Death Valley National Park, but when none are happening they recommend Borax Works near the busy Furnace Creek area. Farther north within the park one should try Scotty's Castle and The Racetrack.
7. While the Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center is a work in progress, keep this spot in mind for when it opens. Found just outside the northern end of Joshua Tree National Park off Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms, a non-profit group is in the midst of planning and building an observatory. This will likely become a heavily visited night sky viewing spot once completed.
Note: The deserts in California are expansive. Do not just rely on GPS directions or online mapping tools, as they have led travelers astray, sometimes into life-threatening situations. Please plan ahead and consult park rangers and expert guide books.
This post expands upon an earlier post on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.
All around the United States is a 100-mile border zone where one can be searched and one's things seized. Policies way beyond what the constitution allows is regularly implemented. Artists drew on select sites. Here's what they realized.
Created by policymakers in the 1940s, the border zone extends 100 miles inland from the nation’s land and sea boundaries and houses nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population. It's also where the 4th amendment rights of the people have been subverted.
We have forgotten how to be medicine to the land, and to ourselves. The members of Syuxtun Collective are revisiting lost indigenous wisdom of learning and listening, of harvesting and preparing plant medicine in participation with nature.
What is nature? Evan Meyer of UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden; Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, disability justice and culture expert; and Rebeca Méndez, a designer and artist whose work addresses climate change, tackle this complex topic.
California's wildfires are more severe and deadlier than ever before. Debates are raging as to what to do, who will pay for billions of dollars in damage and what can be done to lessen the destruction as California adjusts to its new normal.
Influencers - they are powerful, persuasive, and they are everywhere. You may not know it, but you could be living under the influence.
How hot will your neighborhood get? "SoCal Connected" looks at the ground-level effects of climate change on southern California.
One woman strives to prove her innocence from behind bars, while a team of pro-bono lawyers and students fight the odds to get her out.
A look at the profiteering behind two of America's fastest growing diseases affecting millions of Californians.