Gems of Utah — darkest skies
A night with the stars Moab
Whilst staying at Sorrel River RAnch, I’d been hearing all about Johnny Depp filming just by the ranch last summer as he made the Lone Ranger (due out August 13) — but this evening the stars I would visit were altogether bigger — and dare I say more spectacular than handsome boy Depp!
Arriving in a parking area 20 minutes outside the town of Moab where Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park meet, I shook hands with Alex Ludwig from Red Rock Astronomy in Moab http://www.moab-astronomy.com
His long grey hair swept back into a pony tail and the mystique of his Navajo ancestry in his ways, warm charm and gentle character, seemed a million miles from the hubbub of the big cities of North America that so many people know.
But then Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are exactly that – hundreds of miles away from any major cities and therefore there’s no light pollution.
Clarity of skies in this desert climate, the elevation, its pleasantly cool but not cold nights, blend with the free spirited life and it seemed wholly natural that, as Alex reminded us, the chemicals in our body are also those of the stars above and beyond us – that we were created by the miracle of a massive star explosion of stars millions of years ago. It made me feel quite at one with the phenomenal expansion of black sky and twinkling stars and planets that wrapped around us.
We learned about the stars, planets and viewed them through Alex’s very clever computerised telescope. Alex had programmed it to latch onto one spot and from there, to navigate its way to his favourite star shows. We saw stars that were as much as 32 billion light years away and observed galaxies, nebula, Saturn and its rings and Jupiter with its very clear four moons by its side.
I managed to miss a shooting star as I buried my sight into the telescope’s binoculars – but at least I got some comfort that it was not quite the romantic highlight the group all thought – it was more likely not the meteor shower from a broken star burning as it entered the atmosphere, but probably debris from a satellite.
So don’t believe all those romantic starry fairytales about shooting stars!
But do believe that seeing the clear dark skies in Utah is one of the best places in the USA if not the world for the clarity of its night skies, their depth and lack of light pollution. There are many places to enjoy this experience including Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley and Moab. It’s an experience that leaves you feeling small yet totally in awe.