If you thought catching an Arizona sunset was on the must-do list, you need to check out what happens to the sky after the sun goes down…
Arizona boasts two observatories – this is, after all, the place where Pluto was discovered – and the desert skies offer some of the finest sky-scapes that can be glimpsed from the face of the earth.
Make a beeline for Mesa, which is a Mecca for star-gazers. There, you can escape Phoenix’s city lights so that when you glance skywards you will see what can only be described as a star-studded masterpiece.
Perusing the heavens is a timeless joy. Here are some of the best ways to see the skies in the Mesa region…
1. Star Parties At Gilbert Observatory
Travellers to Gilbert can join in the night sky viewing at the public ‘star party’ hosted by the East Valley Astronomy Club. Held monthly, each event at Riparian Preserve includes numerous opportunities to locate constellations, count the moons of Jupiter and peer into the enchanting star-studded Milky Way. Star parties begin at dusk and offer some of the best opportunities to enjoy Arizona’s night sky. These friendly nocturnal gatherings give observers a chance to talk about all things astronomical, look through many types of scopes and show off a few of their favourite sights. This spring, parties are scheduled for March 22, Aril 19, May 24 and June 21.
2. Astronomy Nights At Mesa Community College Planetarium
Mesa Community College hosts special Astronomy Nights on the first Friday of every month where you can view the night sky and explore the universe for free on the rooftop observation deck. On Astronomy Nights, the college’s planetarium runs shows that take place every half hour between 6p.m. to 9:30p.m. Telescope viewing from the observation deck begins at 7:00 p.m.
3. Stargazing For Everyone AT Usery Mountain Regional Park
Grab your flashlight and head out to Usery Mountain Regional Park to experience the sights and sounds of the desert at night. As part of the park’s ‘Stargazing for Everyone’ series, experts tell stories and teach park visitors about the moon, stars, planets and galaxies while viewing the sky through several telescopes. Little ones can even go on flashlight tours to seek out desert animals – or a scorpion hunt with black-lights!
3. Full Moon Hikes At Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman offers ranger-guided full moon hikes. No flashlights are needed as the moonlight is all you need to guide your path. The park also hosts monthly Astronomy Nights to teach visitors about the night sky. At Lost Dutchman State Park you are tucked away from the city’s light pollution, allowing for incredible, crisp views of the night sky in the middle of the desert.
4. Twilight Dinner Cruise
Watch the reflections of night stars twinkle across the majestic Canyon Lake on a Twilight Dinner Cruise on the Dolly Steamboat. Keen star-seekers should experience one of the monthly Astronomy Cruises, where passengers have use of on-board telescopes to view the breathtaking beauty of the solar system under the instruction of astronomy expert Dr Sky.