Astronomical tourism in America: 3 top locations to watch the stars

america mauna kea keck
Keck Telescopes – Mauna Kea.
Credit: NASA

Some of the best places on the American continent from which to observe the sky

Among the perfect destinations for astronomical tourism in the world, American locations undoubtedly stand out. With its wide, uncontaminated and wild nature, with its deserts without any form of artificial lighting, the American continent is one of the most beautiful places on the planet from which to observe the sky and the stars.

What better place to observe the stars, if not an observatory on top of a volcano, in the middle of the ocean? This is where Mauna Kea’s observatories are, isolated and perfect to enjoy every little detail of the sky.

1) Mauna Kea – Hawaii

The observatories of Mauna Kea, in Hawaii are one of the best places on the planet to observe the starry vault. In fact, there is the largest observatory for optical and infrared astronomy on the top of the homonymous volcano. It rises to 4200 meters above sea level. The average seeing of the Mauna Kea places it among the best for the quality of the visible and infrared images with an average resolution of only 0.43 seconds of arc. (source: Wikipedia).

A specific legislation also protects the place, a real mine for astronomy and astrophotography, from sources of light pollution. The area enjoys a dry climate throughout the year. So there are favorable weather conditions for observations. Currently there are thirteen observatories in the area, including the four largest on the planet. The twin Keck telescopes, the Subaru and the Northern Gemini. Striking from every point of view, the place is fascinating despite and perhaps also thanks to the presence of these great telescopes. The observation is special especially for the majestic natural landscape that it presents.

2) Death Valley National Park – California

america death valley nasa
The Death Valley
Credit: NASA

From the top of the volcano in Hawaii we pass to the desert, one of the driest and driest in the world but with a fantastic view of the night sky.

One of the most spectacular places in the world from which to observe the stars and the Milky Way in particular is the Death Valley National Park, in California. During the day the desert is one of the hottest places on the planet. During the night it becomes the ideal place to observe the beauties of the sky with the telescope and the naked eye. The site became part of the “Dark Sky Parks” in 2013. With its lack of light pollution, it does enchant thanks to the magnificence of the starry sky. Furthermore, at the center of the valley is the lowest point in North America.

3) Atacama Desert – Chile

The Atacama Desert is  the “eldorado” of astronomers, so as to house the most impressive telescope complex on Earth.

The Atacama Desert, in the northern part of Chile, is  the ideal place from which to observe the stars. Its arid climate and the absence of rainfall make it also very inhospitable. In the past, scientists compared it to Mars: an “alien” place, precisely. Thanks to its environmental and climatic characteristics, it is home to numerous astronomical observatories, including the VLT of Cerro Parnal, the ALMA, La Silla, Las Campanas.

galaxy sombrero
The Sombrero Galaxy seen by VLT.
Image Credit: ESO [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
Scrutinizing the Universe from these places can be a unique experience. The ALMA radio telescope complex is the largest ever built. Managed by ESO, its antennas are located at over 5,000 meters above sea level. The Cerro Parnal VLT is a system of four optical telescopes. Thanks to the prevalence of clear nights, the dry and arid climate and the absence of light pollution, taking a trip to Chile in the Atacama desert can be an exciting experience for astronomy experts and enthusiasts.

Spectacular experiences worthy of being lived by those who love the sky. A panorama full of suggestions from every point of view awaits those who decide to undertake a tourist-astronomical journey to these places.

And have you already been to these wonderful places? Do you have other locations to suggest for an “astonomic vacation”? Tell us in the comments!

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