When people book a cruise holiday, they are wanting to get away from the hum-drum of everyday life and experience something new.
They are drawn to the new landscapes, colours, smells, sights and way of life to help them forget about the pressures of home for a brief period.
But if that isn’t quite enough, then gazing up into the sky at night and staring at the stars helps to not only put things into perspective, but also inspires the mind to a world outside of our own.
We want to share with you our list of the must-visit stargazing locations that are all accessible through your next ROL Cruise holiday.
Chile can hold its own as a destination in South America; not only does it have one of the most staggering landscapes on Earth, its rich architecture and vibrant culture are something to behold.
So much so, it has two equally beautiful but very different locations for anyone hoping to go stargazing.
San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations, or SPACE for short, started in September 2003. SPACE have had over 100,000 participants on their star tours and Alain Maury told us why the Atacama is one of the greatest locations for stargazing.
“First things first, the southern sky is much better than the northern one. Period.
Largest galaxies, nebulae, clusters of stars, centre of the Milky Way at the zenith (in July/August).
Second thing, there are places where the sky is mostly clear. On average in the Atacama Desert we get about 300 clear nights per year, sometimes more.”
With an average rainfall of just 1mm per year, there are some places in the Atacama that have never experienced rain.
“Chile is making a special effort to develop Astrotourism. In San Pedro de Atacama, we started our agency in 2003 (I came to Chile, working at the European Southern Observatory for 3 years, then got married and stayed here, with my private business). 6 years ago, another observatory opened, and another, another, etc… and now there are several agencies offering such services each with slightly different emphasis in San Pedro de Atacama. In the region of Coquimbo/La Serena there are now also several public observatories, as well as close to Santiago and more to the south.”
The driest desert on earth and possibly the driest place on earth, this stretch of northern Chile makes for a perfect stargazing location with its high altitude, the driest (non-polar) air on Earth and mostly unpolluted skies.
Here you can see the Magellanic Clouds and the Southern Cross, helping to make it a perfect location for astronomers.
“I often compare it to surfing. And like for surfing, there are spots on Earth where stargazing is at its best, and for stargazing, the Atacama Desert is the top place in the world.”
Famed for the giant moai heads, the remote volcanic island in Polynesia is another one of the finest stargazing locations on Earth.
Hawaii has long been the setting for many luxury holidays and honeymoons, but it is also one of the finest stargazing locations in the world.
Looking up into the sky you will be treated to the sights of the Milky Way, the constellations of Ursa Major and Orion and even the bands of Jupiter. Amongst experts, these are known as ‘Celestial Northern Hemisphere favourites’, along with countless numbers of glistening stars.
To explain the beauty and significance of Hawaii as not only a cruise holiday destination, but as a hub for some of the most significant developments in astronomy is not easy. Emma, from Hawaii Tourism, told us just what to expect.
“Hawai‘i offers an unparalleled stargazing experience. Be awe-inspired at one of the most renowned astronomical sites on the planet, from atop the world’s tallest sea mountain. Escape above the clouds and watch the glowing sun fall beneath you, as a prelude to a night watching the glistening world go by.”
Home to one of the most renowned astronomical sites on earth, Hawaii Island hosts a number of different countries looking up into the heavens. Whether you are a seasoned astronomer, someone who has a keen amateur interest in astronomy, or you are just looking for something different to do on your Hawaiian cruise holiday, there is plenty on offer.
“Take a guided tour, with parkas, access to the summit and of course, a warm parka, or hire a vehicle for your own adventure. Mauna Kea boasts 13 telescopes which represent 11 countries, for exploring the sparkling canvas above us.”
Elsewhere, you can marvel in Hawaii's National Parks; like Haleakala NP. Polly Angelakis, Chief of Interpretation and Education at the Park told us why it isn't just a popular spot for tourists, but also the locals.
"The volcano's height, air quality, and remote location on earth provide excellent, clear skies for stargazing. From ancient times through today, people have used the summit of Haleakala to study and view the night sky. When visiting the park, please remember that this volcano is sacred to Native Hawaiians. Please stay on trails, leave natural and cultural resources alone, and if you see people practicing cultural traditions, please respect their space and practices."
The most famous site in the skies above Norway is without question the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.
Protons and electrons stream up from the solar surface and crash into the Earth’s magnetic field. The particles are then charged, which creates the colourful spirals that move along the magnetic field lines.
Tourists flock to Norway on their Baltic cruise holidays as it is one of the finest locations to see the Northern Lights, thanks to its low levels of air and light pollution. But this same reason also makes it an ideal stargazing spot, with the incredibly deep-dark skies helping to illuminate the stars onto this vivid canvas.
Widely considered one of the finest astro-destinations on Earth, the Great Lake Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal became the first site to be given the ‘Starlight Tourism Destination’ certification in the world.
Regardless of the time of year, you are likely to bear witness to some spectacular sights, as the Dark Sky Reserve offers an average of 286 clear nights of good atmospheric conditions – ideal for stargazing - annually.
Located in the south of Portugal, the Dark Sky Reserve is found close to Allentejo, an area that hosts one of the most developed astrotourism industries in the northern hemisphere.
Wiruna, New South Wales
Wiruna is owned by the The Astronomical Society of New South Wales (ASNSW) and uses the land for accommodation and observation facilities for astronomers.
Founded in 1954 as the Sydney Amateur Astronomers, it became the ASNSW in 1964 and has been bringing people together for their related interests in Astronomy and the related sciences ever since.
Since 1993 astronomers of all abilities from all corners of the world gather together to celebrate the South Pacific Star Party each May.
The Canary Islands take the quality of their skies very seriously, so much so that they are recognised on an international level for the exceptional conditions to observe stars. The Law for Astronomical Quality, from the IAC Observatories, has protected the skies above the Canary Islands.
Considered one of Europe’s top destinations for year-round sun, the islands host three Starlight Reserves thanks to their exceptionally low levels of light pollution.
All three of the IAC international astronomy observatories can be found on La Palma and Tenerife, where you can take a guided tour and observe the beautifully clear stars and constellations.
Fives best sky events in 2017
Annual Solar Eclipse – February 26th
An annual solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the centre of the Sun, only showing the Sun’s outer edges and forming a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon.
Annual solar eclipses only happen when it is a new Moon, while the Earth, Moon and Sun are all in perfect alignment. The Moon itself needs to be at a lunar node, as well as being at its apogee.
Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower – May 6th & 7th
On the mornings of the 6th and 7th of May you could be blessed by the sight of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower.
The shower will be most prominent in the Southern Hemisphere, but there will still be meteors falling in the Northern Hemisphere – if not as frequent.
Perseids Meteor Shower – August 12th & 13th
This annual meteor shower is quite possibly one of the finest annual showers in the Northern Hemisphere.
The forecast predicts that if you want to catch the most meteors, you had best be looking up to the sky in the mornings of the 12th and 13th of August – although it is thought that you may still be able to catch some on the 11th.
Total Solar Eclipse – August 21st
There hasn’t been a total eclipse of the Sun that is visible from all 48 mainland states in the U.S since 1979, and you would have to go back almost 100 years since the last coast-to-coast eclipse, which happened way back in 1918.
This eclipse will be visible throughout North America, Central America and some northerly parts of South America. The countries furthest west in Europe and Africa also have a chance to see it, but only 40% of the sun is expected to be covered.
Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13th & 14th
Named after the constellation Gemini – which this meteor shower appears to emerge from – you can observe it between the 4th and 16th of December, though the 13th & 14th are likely to be the most active.
Image Credit: Alain Maury Anne Dirkse Matt Rafferty Nicholas Buer Joshua Tree National Park