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Stargazing Arizona's Night Skies

Stargazing Arizona's Night Skies - Taken August 2013 during the Perseid Meteor Shower on the shores of Lake Havasu by Ken Gallagher
Stargazing Arizona Night Skies - Perseid Meteor Shower, August 2013 - Photo credit Ken Gallagher
When vacationers pack their cars and hit the road heading out of their big cities towards the serenity of the desert, one’s first observation is the desert’s absolutely gorgeous night-sky. And, of course, what the desert offers almost every evening, a billion stars to enjoy throughout the evening.

Robert McCulloch originally designed the city with no streetlights in any of the residential areas of the city, purposefully leaving our night skies lit up and visible with billions of stars for one to wish upon. With an average of 290 sunny days¹ (and clear nights) a year, there is usually an unobstructed view to stargazing Arizona night skies, as well as an amazing view of the Milky Way (when the moon isn’t full, of course). If you’re lucky enough to be in the city during a meteor shower, you’ll have the opportunity to see shooting stars throughout the evening – something you probably won’t see if you’re under the lights of the big city.

Telescope on a hillsideVenturing just a quarter mile or so into the desert on one of the off-road trails opens the sky up to even more amazement. Grab your cell or tablet and download one of the many sky gazing apps and you’ll be able to spot your favorite constellations or planets (recommended apps Google Sky for Android users and StarWalk for iDevice users).

From our own solar system, five planets are visible to the eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Planets do not create light like a star; rather, sunlight illuminates their surfaces and we are able to see them the same way as we see our moon, just not as big.

How do you tell a planet from a star? The general rule is stars twinkle and planets don’t. The 'twinkling' of the stars is the stars are so far away from us and any disturbances in the atmosphere make the star’s light 'bounce around', making it appear to 'twinkle'.

Due to the earth’s orbiting the sun, each season brings with it a new set of constellations, unless the constellation is 'circumpolar' – visible nightly and year round. Five constellations are circumpolar: Ursa Major and Minor (Big and Little Dipper), Draco, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia. Below is a list of some of the constellations you can spot while stargazing Arizona night skies, depending on the season:

Spring Night Sky
Big and Little Dippers
Cancer
Cassiopeia
Cepheus
Draco
Gemini
Hercules
Leo
Libra
Orion
Perseus
Taurus
Virgo
Summer Night Sky
Big and Little Dippers
Aquarius
Capricorn
Cepheus
Draco
Hercules
Leo
Libra
Pegasus
Sagittarius
Scorpio
Virgo

Fall Night Sky
Aquarius
Aries
Big and Little Dippers
Capricorn
Cassiopeia
Cepheus
Draco
Hercules
Pegasus
Perseus
Pisces
Sagittarius
Taurus

Winter Night Sky
Aries
Big and Little Dippers
Cancer
Cassiopeia
Cepheus
Draco
Gemini
Leo
Orion
Pegasus
Perseus
Pisces
Taurus

Stargazing Arizona night skies, in and around Lake Havasu CityYou can never get tired of stargazing Arizona night skies, in and around the Lake Havasu City area, because there’s always something new in the sky to find. Whether you’re camping in the desert, walking the Island for an evening stroll in the warm weather, or just stepping outside your front door, stargazing in the desert cannot be beat – because our desert night sky is a stargazers’ best friend.