What’s big and dark and very sparkly at night? Yosemite is!
Yosemite National Park, miles from the nearest city lights, has a very dark night sky that makes it a great place to look at the stars. Bring along a star chart and look for constellations, or look through binoculars at some of our planetary neighbors.
For a speechless view of the stars, try Sentinel Dome at night. It’s the best 360° unobstructed view of the heavens you can see, especially during the meteor showers in August. You’ll also have excellent naked-eye views of the Milky Way galaxy. But aided by a telescope at Glacier Point, you’ll be able to view many other astronomical objects such as star clusters, gaseous nebulae and planets. This summer, during mid-August to mid September, Mars will be very near to earth. The closest approach will be on August 27. Mars will be closer to earth than it has been on that day in over 1000 years!
In June, July, and August, amateur astronomers often set up telescopes at Glacier Point on Saturdays, and astronomy walks or talks may also be offered elsewhere in the park. Once the road is open to Glacier Point, usually around July 1, rangers provide a star and constellation sunset talk at the point itself. But on these selected weekends, the rangers will be joined by between 10 and 30 amateur astronomers with their own telescopes which are set up in or around the ampitheatre at Glacier Point. If you plan a trip to Yosemite during the summer, why not pick one of these weekends and come up with your red flashlight to Glacier Point at sunset. The viewing area at Glacier Point is mostly flat and can accommodate several hundred persons. It may be best to avoid full moon weekends, as many objects in the night sky will be washed-out.
These star parties are offered as a public service by the national park and the astronomy clubs, and anyone is welcome to attend. Bring your own telescope or binoculars and jacket (it can get quite cool even during summer) and join the fun. To bring a telescope, you may need to be a member of a sponsoring astronomy club; it is one of the benefits of astronomy club membership. But you can come up as a visitor to the park and enjoy looking through all the telescopes any weekend. Here are the dates and which clubs will bring telescopes for you to look through. Check with the park service regarding equipment and for the current schedule.
YOSEMITE ASTRONOMY CLUB PARTICIPANTS
• Jun 27 – 29, Santa Cruz Astronomy Club
• Jul 3 – 6, Tri-Valley Stargazers
• Jul 18 – 19, Sonoma County Astronomical Society (S.C.A.S.)
• Jul 25 – 26, San Jose Astronomical Association
• Aug 1 – 2, Central Valley Astronomers, Inc. and Astronomical Society of the Central Coast
• Aug 15 – 16, San Francisco Amateur Astronomers (S.F.A.A.)
• Aug 22 – 23, Mount Diablo Astronomical Society
• Aug 29 – Sep 1, Peninsula Astronomical Society