You do not need to be a professional astronomer to enjoy all that space has to offer. There are quite a few things you can see without a telescope at parks in Virginia. The problem you may encounter around your house is something that is referred to as light pollution. This is caused by all the artificial lights in a given area and will decrease the number of stars you can see in the night sky. A lot of these visible stars are quite faint, so the artificial light bouncing off the atmosphere is more intense.
I visited James River State Park last week and was amazed at the number of stars that were visible. I live in a wooded area, so I had always thought that I could see more stars in the sky than most. Boy was I wrong. There were quite literally four to five times as many stars that were visible in the park than at my house. The sky was literally covered with them.
If you have ever had an interest in looking through a telescope, then Virginia State Parks are for you. You will be able to make out a lot more details of space objects than in most rural areas. If you are into astronomy, and have a high powered scope, you can get a better look at deep-sky objects and galaxies. It would be the optimal place to introduce your children to the wonders of the heavens since you can include this into the night portion of your vacation when all other activities have settled down.
If you want the chance to take a look at galaxies and nebulas through a telescope, but do not want to make the plunge and purchase one, certain parks in Virginia will help you out. There are a couple of astronomy clubs that volunteer at parks on certain weekends. They bring telescopes to the park and allow visitors to look through them. They also do a wonderful PowerPoint presentation if it is cloudy on a scheduled date. I am told this PowerPoint alone is amazing.
One such scheduled date is this Saturday (March 7, 2008) at Pocahontas State Park. The Crewe Astronomy Club will be on site setting up telescopes for viewing. Depending on how clear the skies are (weather is calling for partly cloudy and a low temperature of 54), this could be your chance to take a look at the wonders of our solar system and beyond. They will begin setting up at 6:30PM so don’t be late.
Check out our events page to query for similar programs throughout the year at a Virginia State Park near you.