The next meteor shower is August 10-13, but sometimes the bright lights of the big city can get in your way of seeing the stars in their true glory. Here are five places in and out of the city to catch a glimpse of the beauty that is the night’s sky.
C.M. Crockett Park
10066 Rogues Road
Midland, VA 22728
C.M. Crockett Park in Fauquier County, Virginia is a great place outside of the city where stargazers both experienced and beginners can go to see constellations, meteors, satellites and planets. The open field offers unobstructed views of the nighttime sky. The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club organizes stargazing. The public is permitted to attend on certain Saturday evenings until 11 p.m. Telescopes and binoculars are recommended but are not necessary to see the stars.
925 Springvale Road
Great Falls, VA 22066
Observatory Park is located near DC in McLean, Virginia at Turner Farm. With a dedicated observation area, it’s a popular place for astronomers and stargazers alike to meet and watch the night’s sky. Supported by the Analemma Society, the park is open to the public on Friday evenings to stargaze beginning at sunset. Bring a blanket or chairs and sit back and enjoy the stars. Remember that if it’s cloudy, there won’t be any chance of seeing them. The website offers an astronomical events calendar so you can stay abreast of all the upcoming meteor showers, equinox and solstices.
Rock Creek Planetarium
5200 Glover Road N.W.
Washington, DC 20015
Discover all about the night’s sky with the Rock Creek Planetarium that uses Spitz software to illustrate the night’s sky onto the planetarium. Evening stargazing sessions occur through November at the Military Field, which is located off of Military Road in Rock Creek Park. This joint program with the National Capital Astronomers Association is free and may be canceled due to cloudy or rainy skies. The Planetarium is free and tickets may be obtained from the Nature Center front desk.
Sky Meadows State Park
11012 Edmonds Lane
Delaplane, VA 20144
The Sky Meadows State Park is located in Northern Virginia, only 45 minutes from DC off of I-66. It consists of 1,864 acres featuring rolling pastures allowing for open fields and 17 miles of hiking trails. It’s far enough from the city that light pollution is rarely an issue, so you’ll be able to view the stars. If you want to meet up with the Smithsonian on Saturdays, there’s free admission and local astronomers in this event that begins with a half-hour program for children followed by observations by an ambassador from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System. Click here for more information on this program. And if you want the full outdoors experience, there are primitive campgrounds available for $15 per night.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Independence Ave. at 6th St. S.W.
Washington, DC 20560
One of the most popular and well-attended museums in DC is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Featuring a Public Observatory, visitors can view the sun and other planets Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. regularly. On special occasions, the Public Observatory offers night viewing open to the public. For specific dates and times, visit the website and check out the calendar of events.
Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC’s off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isnt enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamie’s traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.