Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A lack of trees and a distance from city lights are the things that make stargazing in the desert so wonderful. Arches NP is dangerously close to the city of Moab with its flood-lit hotel parking lots and even a spinning spotlight occasionally. On the night where I was waiting out a big storm in my car parked on the side of the park road I had a high vantage point facing towards moab looking out over the petrified sand dunes. As the storm passed and lightning struck I saw an orange glow in the distance and was sure that lightning had started a fire somewhere in the park. It was only later when I was trying to take pictures of the night sky that I realized this orange glow was actually the lights of Moab polluting the sky. Luckily, Moab is the only city around so the lights can be escaped if you retreat deep enough into the park.

Skyline arch is on the side of Arches opposite Moab and at a much higher elevation. At this height and with this sparse landscape you can see stars all the way down to the horizon line, something impossible from beneath the screen of dense vegetation on the east coast. Whenever I looked at the night sky, I felt like the stars were receding into the sky as I focused on them. I could catch a glimpse of the brilliantly speckled sky out of the corner of my eye with its superior night vision only to have the stars retreat when I turned to look. I think this is why a person can spend so long staring at the night sky. Your eyes dart back and forth almost beyond your control trying to catch a dense patch of stars that always seems to be just out of view.

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