Discover the breathtaking beauty of one of nature's true wonders: the night sky. Stargazing has taken on a new popularity recently – and Missouri is an ideal spot for it, providing the perfect combination of open skies, accessibility to an abundance of public lands and – of course – darkness.
You might think that last attribute can be found anywhere, on any night. But there are levels of darkness and the darker it is, the more you can see. And the more you can see, the more you experience a connection with the cosmos.
FIRST, you'll have to get out of the cities and larger towns where there is too much light. One of the advantages of the Show Me State is you're never far from somewhere you can enjoy the panorama with the naked eye, view star clusters with a telescope or capture the night sky with your camera.
Look for places that are fairly isolated, with not too much forest cover nearby. The International Dark-Skies Association - Missouri Chapter website is a great resource for finding the darkest spots in the state. A bright moon can wash out the stars even in remote areas, so when planning your trip, be sure to take into consideration moonrise and moonset as well as the phases of the moon. You want to select a time that is closest to the new moon. The best viewing time is from an hour after sundown to an hour before dawn.
GEAR UP – be sure to take bug spray, a flashlight to use getting back to your car and for checking the settings on your camera, and a fully-charged phone. Wear sturdy shoes in case you have to hike a bit and even in summer, a light jacket to ward off the night chill.
The Missouri Department of Conservation's Dan Zarlenga, an amateur astronomer himself, recommends you also look for public lands that offer camping. Not only will you be sure you'll have access (many public lands close at dusk – when in doubt, call ahead), you also won't have to worry about driving home in the wee hours, tired from your stargazing trip. So be sure to pack your camping gear.
TOP SPOTS in the state that meet our stargazing criteria:
All over the Show-Me State, visitors and residents alike step out of their cars at night, look up at the sky and say "Wow! Look at all those stars!" Now that you're one of them, be sure to share your photographs using #MissouriAdventure.
If you're planning to photograph the stars, Missouri Division of Tourism photographer Aaron Fuhrman offers these basic tips:
Written by Barb Brueggeman