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…):
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
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
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
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.