Astronomy tourism: world’s best places for star gazing

  on November 11 2010 2:39 PM
Canary Islands
A windsurfer cruises by the beach at Costa Calma, on Fuerteventura in the Spanish Canary Islands. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The beauty of night is a rare occurrence in cities where twinkling stars fade behind light pollution as the sky looks dully black in the night and where the moon also loses its shine to the fumes in atmosphere. No wonder parents living in big cities take their children miles away to merely show them the stars. Astronomy tourism, a special interest tourism that deals in seeing through the outer space, makes it possible on a wider spectrum.

Seeing stars from close while being footed firmly on earth is an enthralling experience that astronomy tourism offers. There are hotels that offer telescopes and other means for star gazing in the night sky and then there are observatories on some exclusive locations of the earth that help tourists delve deep into a world outside their world. Plus, there are a few lesser known natural sites where astronomy tourism is best enjoyed with your naked eyes.

From the clear skies of Canary Islands in Atlantic Ocean to the Northern lights that marvel in the skies on North Pole, here is a list of best places for enjoying astronomy tourism in the world. Read on and the next time you are planning a vacation, these places are sure to top your list of destinations.

Canary Islands

Enjoy the sense of being close to the cosmos at the Canary Islands, where they say, “Stars smile down on you”.

Sky watching is at its best with crystal clear night skies in the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the northwest coast of Africa. Canary Islands, which is a group of seven islands, make star gazing a thrilling experience absolutely without the help of a telescope. Because of the position of the islands in the northern latitude one can see all the constellations of the northern hemisphere throughout the year. Moreover, the Government of the Islands has taken measures to protect clean skies of the region from light pollution.

One can feel the vastness of the universe at Canary Islands where thousands of stars appear to have formed a glittery blanket over the expanse. Watching shooting stars spread showers of light in the sky or discovering constellations come to you innately in the Canary regardless of your location on a hill top, on the shores or on the country side. Moderate temperatures of the islands favor astronomy tourism round the year. Individual camping facilities and guided tours for night are available in the region.

Chile

Chile in South America is yet another country witnessing growth in astronomy tourism. The northern part of the country has postcard blue skies with sunshine for over 300 sunny days in a year that supports natural observation of the universe. The region abounds in some of world’s largest telescopes and many famous observatories including Cerro Mayu, Collowara and Mamalluca observatories in the Coquimbo region; Tololo, Pangue and La Silla observatories and the like. Chile is also home to Elqui Valley, located in the Region of Coquimbo, which has the maximum reports of UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) sightings in the world. The country definitely beckons you for a gaze at the wonders of celestial bodies.

South Africa

Home to some of the world's known astronomical observatories, South Africa offers some of the best star viewing experiences. The country's largest telescope called Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which is also the largest telescope in whole of Africa, is located on a hill top near Cape Town that attracts a huge number of tourists including astronauts, engineers, students and anyone who is interested in universe irrespective of their ages. Hotels in South Africa are making the most of the astronomy tourism with telescopes in rooms on offer, giving opportunity to visitors to watch night skies at their ease.

Northern lights tours: from Iceland to Siberia

Northern lights, also known as Aurora Borealis or Auroras, are one of the most magical spectacles in the sky in the Polar Regions, one can ever observe. The magnificent display of colorful, natural lights from evening through the night sky is a breathtakingly beautiful site that takes you by awe.

These auroras are created as a result of some natural mechanism between solar wind, a flow of ions, Earth's magnetic field and collisions between ions and atmospheric atoms and molecules that cause energy releases in the form of colorful lights.

Against the backdrop of starry, dark nights, the auroras add to the star gazing thrills on the countries located on Polar Regions. Auroras are clearly visible through the naked eyes more on North Pole than on South Pole. Iceland, northern Scandinavia, Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Siberia are the ideal destinations to witness the beauty of night sky with twinkling stars and glowing Northern lights. Usually, the time of early spring or early autumn is considered best to see the Northern lights when nights are still dark.

Northern lights vacation packages, northern lights evening tours and day tours are available at these places.

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