Star Bright, Star Light, First Star I See Tonight

In Astronomy, Photography, Science, Things to do

Photo courtesy NPS.

One of the things I hear from people who’ve just experienced their first night in Yosemite is, “God I can’t believe how many stars there are here!”

The stars are exactly the same as where you live, we just don’t have as much light pollution drowning out their light. In fact, Tuolumne Meadows has what’s considered a “near pristine” lightscape. That means it’s about as dark and light pollution free as you’re going to get anywhere.

This isn’t merely by accident mind you. With the campground, lodge, store, gas station, stables, visitors center, and roads there could be a lot more light pollution. But through careful management and planning light sources are kept to a minimum and only utilized in the most sensitive ways. Ways that put the light where it needs to be, not lighting up the sky for miles so no one can see any stars.

If you want to experience the wealth of stars in Yosemite consider attending an evening ranger program under the stars—there are summer evening programs at Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, White Wolf, and Yosemite Valley (see the Yosemite Guide for a schedule). Additionally, the park concessioner hosts for-fee “starry skies” programs.

Get away from the hotel or campsite. Grab your flashlight and go for a short night hike. No, I don’t mean the top of Half Dome. Just down the lane a piece for a stroll. You’ll be surprised how many stars you’ll see.

Spend an evening at Glacier Point. Glacier Point’s proximity to a road and maintained trails as well as a stunning view make it nearly ideal for star gazing. Grab a pair of binoculars, a camera, telescope and a star wheel and see how many constellations you can pick out.

The stars are right there. Get out, enjoy them!

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