Utah Valley is beginning to warm up, which means tubing down the Provo River, hiking up Mt. Nebo, visiting Timpanogos Cave National Monument and other summertime activities. Warmer days also welcome summer nights that are comfortably cool, allowing more opportunities to explore the wonder of the night sky.
Even with all the city amenities and street lights in Utah Valley, residents can still enjoy dark skies relatively close to home. Below you'll find suggested spots for stargazing, tips for having the best experience, and a calendar of this summer's most notable astrological events.
Where to go stargazing
(Photo Credit- Cheryl Albertini Abram)
Located on the Nebo Loop only twelve miles from the Payson side, Payson Lakes can feel like a campsite a hundred miles away from the closest town. During the day, the lake water is used by paddle boarders and those wanting to cool off from the summer's heat. At night the water becomes a perfect reflection of the starry sky above. Bathrooms and picnic tables are available, as well as a campground for anyone interested in making their night-sky viewing part of an overnight stay.
AMERICAN FORK CANYON RESERVOIRS
Tibble Fork Reservoir is a popular spot in the summer for swimming, paddle boarding and fishing. Nighttime offers an excellent opportunity to see the stars in the reservoir's most iconic view of Mount Timpanogos. From the parking lot near the reservoir you'll see the north side of Mt. Timpanogos. Here, night-sky gazers can view the core of the Milky Way. This is always an impressive display of stars before it moves into the light filled skies of nearby cities.
It's not uncommon to see overcrowded conditions at Tibble Fork, even during the evenings, so those wishing to avoid light disturbances can go higher towards Silver Lake Flat. The unpaved road to this upper reservoir and is usually open from late May to early October. Having an all-wheel vehicle is highly recommended as most of the road isn't paved.
DIAMOND FORK ROAD
(Photo Credit: Jason Robison)
Most known for its beautiful tiered hot springs, the Diamond Fork area in Spanish Fork Canyon is a quiet and peaceful place to see the stars. Distant from Utah Valley’s most populous cities, the skies here are especially dark.
Some incredibly unique options in our valley are the full moon zip tours and lift rides at Sundance Mountain Resort. Only available a few nights each summer, these experiences can either provide a peaceful or exhilarating way to experience a full moon above the beautiful Provo Canyon.
Another option in our valley is to head to the planetarium at BYU. Planetariums use advanced projection systems to imitate the night sky inside. BYU’s planetarium allows viewers to have this experience while seated in cushioned reclining seats.
Anyone can attend the shows provided by the BYU Astronomical Society, though some are geared specifically towards children. Current prices are $5 for adults and $2 for kids. Their schedule can be found here.
Viewing the night sky can happen anytime the sky is clear. For those wanting to see the beauty of the stars and specifically the Milky Way, the best nights to go out are when the moon is absent from the sky or is low in the sky. Apps like Photo Pills can be helpful in planning what the sky could look like later in the evening while apps like Star Walk 2 can help to identify stars and planets that are being seen at the moment.
For the safest experience, make sure you explore any areas during the day first to identify potential dangers and the best places to see the sky. Since some of the best viewing spots are in areas with limited cell service, it’s also advised that anyone going out make plans for potential car issues, sudden bad weather, or needing to get in contact with someone without the use of cell phone service.
Don't go out alone; bring a friend.
Don't forget some water!
Finally, while the days may be warm, the nights in Utah Valley cool off, so bring layers to stay warm while viewing the night sky.
ASTRO EVENTS SUMMER 2022
May 15-16 - Total Lunar Eclipse - Recommended Viewing: 8:25pm-12:50am with a peak around 10:11pm.
July 28, 29 - Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower - Recommended Viewing: Head out on the night of the 28th. Greatest viewing should be after midnight, which technically would now be the 29th.
August 12, 13 - Perseids Meteor Shower - Recommended Viewing: This year, the shower occurs when the moon is nearly full, which will make viewing the meteors difficult. The sky will still be beautiful with moonlight and occasional bright meteors still visible in the sky.
August 14 - Saturn Viewing - This night will be the best time to see Saturn and it's rings with a telescope.
New Moon Dates - May 30th, June 28th, July 28th, Aug 27th, Sep 25th
For more activities this summer in Utah Valley, check out these Outdoor Summer Adventure ideas!