PostHeaderIcon Seattle Stargazing

Looking for stars in Seattle? The further you can get from streetlights, the better. Darkness is what you need for the best stargazing.* If you’d like to join other astronomy enthusiasts, try one of these local events!

Good City Parks:

Solstice Park: West Seattle – 7400 Fauntleroy Way SW in Seattle: This city park is open from 4am-11:30pm (as of June 2010) and has good views from south southwest to north northwest and a very open sky. The eastern horizon is blocked to about 35 degrees up. You have to stay back from the edge of the overlook to avoid being overpowered by the tennis court lights, but the trails themselves are relatively open and completely unlit. Official website

Green Lake Park: North Seattle – 7201 E Green Lake Dr. N: Green Lake has the distinct advantage of being open 24 hours, but there is more lighting on the trails, and it is more centrally located within the city, so cutting off skyglow can be difficult. Official website

4am-11:30pm is one of the standard sets of operating hours for Seattle parks. Here’s the February 2009 Operating Hours proposal, which has some explanations of why.

Two other parks I plan to check out this year (I wrote that two years ago…):

Fremont Peak Park: Fremont – 4357 Palatine Ave. N A little bird told me they installed a southeast-facing concrete patio specifically for telescope viewing.\

Jefferson Park: a newly developed park on Beacon Hill, great views to the west from the trail around the sports field. Below the Park on the west side is a grassy slope along 15th Ave. S between S. Spokane St. and S. Dakota St.

Sunset Hill Park: 7531 34th Ave NW, 98117. Ballard area, great western horizon I hear. Starting at 7001 East Green Lake Way N Seattle, WA:

1. Head northeast on East Green Lake Way N toward NE Ravenna Blvd  0.8 mi
2. Slight right onto Green Lake Dr N  0.2 mi
3. Slight left onto N 80th St 2.7 mi
4. Turn left onto 32nd Ave NW 0.3 mi
5. Take the 2nd right onto NW 75th St 0.1 mi
6. Turn right onto 34th Ave NW
Destination will be on the left 98 ft

I’m looking for more 24-hour parks in Seattle, so far I’ve found:

Atlantic City Boat Ramp, 8702 Seward Park Ave. S

Green Lake Park, 7201 E Green Lake Dr. N

Kerry Park (Franklin Place), 211 W Highland Dr.

Myrtle Edwards Park, 3130 Alaskan Way W

Stan Sayres Memorial Park, 3808 Lake Washington Blvd. S

Eddie Vine Boat Ramp, 8001 Seaview Ave. NW

Wallingford Steps, Wallingford Ave. N Street End at N 34th St.

Sunnyside Ave N Boat Ramp, 2301 NE Northlake Way

I’m going to spend a little time looking into those, to see if the skies are any good, and if the darkness works out. Let me know what you think of the stargazing at these sites.

Star Parties and Observatories:

The Seattle Astronomical Society hosts stargazing parties in two locations in Seattle. http://www.seattleastro.org

Green Lake Star Party: Green Lake star parties are on the north shore at a grassy area west of the Bathhouse Theater, near the fishing piers on the lake. July 9, August 6, and Sept 3, 2011 at 7pm

Paramount Park Star Party: The park address is NE 155th and 8th NE in Shoreline. July 9, August 6, and Sept 3, 2011 at 7pm

The University of Washington Observatory has two open houses each month. Look through the UW’s 110-year-old refracting telescope, and listen to a short talk. The observatory is located in the northwest corner of the campus. http://www.astro.washington.edu/groups/outreach/tjo/

Summer 2011 open house nights:

July 6 and 20 from 9pm-11pm

August 3 and 17 from 9pm-11pm

The Battle Point Astronomical Association on Bainbridge Island has a number of star parties and observatory open houses. http://www.bpastro.org

Summer 2011 star parties:

July 23 8pm

August 27 8pm

Further Afield

Getting out of the city makes for even better views of the sky. Here are some of my favorite stargazing locations within a few hours of Seattle. Most of these are fee-based public areas.

Campground on Lake Kachess: In the Cascades just off I-90. The boat ramp has a good view towards the Northeast (perfect for Perseid viewing). Be sure to talk to the ranger beforehand though, the boat ramp is in the “Day Use Only” section of the park. Info: www.reserveamerica.com

Lake Ozette in Olympic National Park: Near the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, has a good reputation. Stay near the water (out of the trees) for the best sights. Info: www.nps.gov, Brochure, Campground

Bowman Bay Campground: The Boeing Employee’s Astronomical Society recommends Bowman Bay Campground in Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. Info: www.parks.wa.gov

Staircase Campground: My favorite stargazing location, Staircase Campground in Olympic National Park. When you get there, sit on the bridge for the best open-sky views. Info: www.nps.gov, Brochure

 

View Stargazing in Washington State in a larger map
(Short link: http://tinyurl.com/SeattleStargazingMap)

 

The Perseid Meteor Shower

If you spend any time stargazing this summer, be sure not to miss the Perseid meteor shower.

Dates 2011: July 23-August 22 after midnight

Peak 2011: August 13, 12am-3am

To see the Perseids, turn to face the constellation Perseus, which will be rising in the Northeast a bit before midnight during the month of August.

Pacific Science Center’s Starmap for July and August

July-August Starmap 2008 (only the planets will be out of date – the constellations and stars will be the same).

*Please use caution walking in the city in the dark. Also, be aware that many of Seattle’s Parks close at sunset.

23 Responses to “Seattle Stargazing”

  • alicesastroinfo says:

    Katherine just asked about the hours of the parks recommended above.

    For the Seattle & Shoreline city parks:
    Greenlake is in fact a 24 hour park, so you’re welcome there any time of day or night. Do take any precautions you feel necessary to keep yourself safe at night in a city.
    Paramount Park is “generally open from dawn to dusk” according to the Shoreline Parks Department webpage

    For the State and National Parks:
    The ones I have listed are all campgrounds, so they are “open” 24 hours, but that tends to be only for campers. If you plan to only stay part of the evening, and not camp you may need to be creative and share your stargazing with the rangers. (I have found that people-of-authority are often just as interested in the beauty of the sky as you are, and if you explain what you’re doing and share it with them, they are less likely to suspect nefarious activity and are more likely to let you stay.)

    Star Parties:
    Although you can enjoy the Seattle parks’ stargazing on any date, the next star parties by the Seattle Astronomical Society are:
    June 27th, 2009 at 7pm
    July 25th, 2009 at 7pm
    and
    August 29th, 2009 at 7pm.

    Lastly, I plan to update this page again this year, I just haven’t done it yet!

    -Alice

  • Gray Gaffer says:

    May be a bit of a ride for Seattleites, but closer and with better skies is the Battle Point Astronomical Association on Bainbridge Island. We have a fixed building and dome with a 24″ Newtonian, plus grassy areas for member’s and visitor’s scopes. Membership is not required, and BPAA is a 501(C3) with a charter for public education. Star parties monthly plus many other activities.

    http://www.bpastro.org

  • alicesastroinfo says:

    Oh good point Gray!

  • Michiko Stas says:

    LOVE this page. Amazing resource.

  • Emily H. says:

    I’m going to be in Seattle on vacation from October 14 – 18 and wanted to do something special for my boyfriend who loves ‘anything and everything space.’

    Any suggestions?

    • Alice says:

      Emily,

      I’m so sorry I missed this, I think it was because I was on vacation myself.

      Next time I’d highly recommend the Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight, and if timing works out, University of Washington’s Theodore Jacobsen Observatory!

      -Alice

  • greg says:

    Hi Alice,

    This is great info and all in one place! I was wondering if you are planning to update with 2011 information such as Star Parties, any updates on Seattle parks, etc.

    Thanks!
    Greg

  • Jess says:

    Any good spots up east– Carnation, WA area perhaps?

    • Alice says:

      Not off the top of my head, but I’ll check my network and see what they say.
      Tiger mountain? I’ve also gone just over the pass to the campground on Lake Kachess. It’s in the Cascades just off I-90

    • Alice says:

      My friends say: “Stay away from the river. Go for a few hundred feet elevation. Our place is pretty dark but our farm is on the river. The only place without heavy fog/dew is our upper pasture (~120 ft above the river) and by 0300 local everything is soaking wet.”

  • ikee says:

    Stargazing over Seattle would be very romantic together with you loved one. I had remembered one of the most romantic movie I had seen entitled Sleepless over Seattle.\

  • AN6u5 says:

    So what’s your recommendation for a West Seattle spot to watch the eclipse? Is there anywhere West facing that is better than Solstice park? I’m thinking about the beach at Lincoln park halfway between the pool to the South and the houses to the North

    • Alice says:

      Yes, Lincoln Park is great, and you’ll get a better look at the horizon than from Solstice Park.
      And you’re right, on that north half of the beach might be even better than the south half.

      Anywhere you love to watch the sunset from – that’ll be good for the lunar eclipse.

  • Maebell says:

    I’m looking for somewhere to take my date and I want to take him stargazing! The only problem is I’m trying to find places in snohomish county. All the parks here close around 10pm. I really want it to be like a pull off the side of the road and lay in a field kind of thing. I just don’t know of any open places. I just want it to be nice and romantic, but also want to show him all the stars. Can you help me find a place?

  • brooke says:

    Are there any good parks in the Bellevue area? Or up towards Bothell? I want to go stargazing this weekend, but I would rather stay on the eastside then go into Seattle.

    Thanks!

  • Ray Stinson says:

    Alice: There are other alternatives for Stargazing in Puget Sound. First of all, there are two National Parks nearby that offer Stargazing programs run by Astro-VIP’s working for the National Park Service in conjunction with Colorado State University. They are Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge. Astro-VIP is John Goar who is a member of the Olympic Astronomical Society and designated Astro-VIP (Astronomy Volunteer in the Park). Check with the park for viewing times and dates. The second is Mt Rainier National Park at Paradise. Astro-VIP Don West-Wilke is a member of the Tacoma Astronomical Society. Check with the park for times and dates for viewing. Both Astro-VIP’s also offer Solar Viewing daily (when the sun shines) during the summer months. Another alternative is Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. Astronomy programs are held at both St Mary visitor Center and Apgar Visitor Center daily and nightly. Twice each year there is a Logan Pass Star Party where local Astronomy clubs are invited to bring their equipment for the public to view through. The park provides both Solar (H-Alpha & white light) telescopes and multiple night time viewing telescopes for the scheduled programs. Currently the Astro-VIP’s assigned to Glacier are David W Ingram (BEAS & SAAS) and Raymond J Stinson (Tacoma Astronomical Society). During the 2013 year, we expect to have no less than 5 Astro-VIP’s working at Glacier.

  • vince says:

    hello-

    great information here – i have used this quite a bit. i am wondering about stargazing in the winthrop area. i am taking my family camping and promised them that we would find a place to see the milky way. would camping outside of winthrop, wa be a good place to view it? thanks much!

    vince

    • Alice says:

      Anywhere out there should be perfect. Get out from under the trees for the best view, but all of that area should be great, and the Milky Way is right overhead this time of year.

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