Have you ever attended a star party? When I worked at the Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park, California, one of the things we did for guests was place telescopes on the roof of the Furnace Creek Inn and offered evening stargazing. Why? The sky in Death Valley is very dark and is not washed out from light pollution found in urban areas. This was a rare treat for most of our guests since many weekenders were escaping from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
I really miss those nights of looking up and getting lost in the endless star-studded sky. I also remember spotting some odd flying objects, but that could be a whole other post.
In 2013, Death Valley National Park was designated as the world’s largest “Gold Tier” International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association. The International Dark Sky Places conservation program was established in 2001 by IDA to recognize stewardship of the night sky. The IDA’s mission “is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.” Pretty cool, right?
Related: Barefoot Through Badwater
Even cooler are the Star Parties Furnace Creek Resort is coordinating with the Las Vegas Astronomical Society. These celestial gatherings are a celebration of the humbling awe of the solar system. A number of stargazing events are held during the winter and spring months and reservations are being accepted for the next Death Valley Star Party, scheduled for Feb. 20 – 21, 2015. Sky tours begin each evening at 8 p.m. and on Feb. 21, 2014, solar viewing will be available from 10 a.m. – 2 p .m.
Of course, Death Valley’s gorgeous dark skies attract stargazers year-round. After-hours entertainment available to guests:
- National Park Service ranger-led programs complete with high-powered telescopes. View the moon’s surface, distant stars and deep-sky objects at various park locations including the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Harmony Borax Works and the Visitors Center Thursday through Sunday.
- Monthly moonlight horseback rides provided by Furnace Creek Stables through April.
Located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Death Valley is ideally positioned in the world’s largest International Dark Sky Park. Clear nights are the norm, abundance of undeveloped and exterior lights of the resort dim by design, the expansive sky opens a gateway to endless stars. Man, writing about this is really making me homesick and wishing I could click my heels and be there in an instant.
Visit www.furnacecreekresort.com to make your reservation for the next Death Valley Star Party. Parking for all Star Parties is available at the Furnace Creek Golf Course or just a short walk from hotel guest rooms. Astronomers bringing telescopes will need to register with the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.
Top Image Credit: Furnace Creek Resort