When is the best time to visit a dark sky park? Cherry Springs is only a few hours from my home and I thought winter would be the best time to view,
due to the humidity levels. But looking at a clear sky chart, they're saying the humidity is still relatively high. Also, they have a star party in
June. So when really is the best time to go to a dark sky park?
It really depends on what you want to see, and what your tolerance is to cold and/or insects.
Some objects are better observed, and only visible at certain times of the year. Winter generally provides clearer skies, and longer nights, but can
be cold. Summer nights are more comfortable, prone to humidity, and insects.
While there is always something interesting in the sky all year round, some interesting objects are only seen at certain times of the your -- such as
Orion and the Pleiades. Those are best viewed during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.
My recommendation would be the Perseid meteor shower, which is expected to peak between August
12, 18h15m to 20h45m UT this year. If you can only observe for one night, the night of the 11th/12th may be marginally better for your location this
year than the 12th/13th, but if you can observe for two nights or more, then try the 12th/13th and perhaps the 10th/11th - it's a good idea to hedge
your bets with a meteor shower like the Perseids in case the peak night is clouded out. Meteor rates can be good both in the nights leading up to the
peak, and after the peak with the Perseids.
This year the Moon will be out of the way at this time, so it's an excellent opportunity to observe the Perseids.
Here's footage of a Perseid meteor captured by a camera using cutting edge technology:
Although star gazing in summer has it's downsides (biting insects, less transparency - although this is not always the case, and shorter nights which
don't get quite as dark), there are upsides such as the relatively warm nights, and the milky-way which is best observed in summer IMO.
If you scroll down my post here you'll find some general meteor observing tips -
please note that even though it's summer, it'll still get quite cold under a clear sky, so a sleeping bag and warm cloths is a good idea.
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