I saw Colorado’s stars for the first time when I was fifteen. It was on a camping trip, my first time out west, and I will never forget how it felt to watch the sky fill with so many stars I believed I’d traveled to another planet. “It’s like Star Wars,” I shared with my friends back home, who, like me, had never had the good fortune of seeing a real dark sky, one that exhibits the true potential of the galaxy and everything it holds.
In Colorado, we are lucky to have pockets where dark skies still possess the power to amaze. And nowhere is better for star gazing than the communities of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in central Colorado’s Wet Mountain Valley.
Since 1999, the local non-profit Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley has worked tirelessly to reduce light pollution. This includes replacing light pollution fixtures with shielded units that direct necessary light downward and educating the public on the importance of preserving the night sky.
These efforts paid off when, in 2015, the International Dark Sky Association awarded the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff an International Dark Sky Community Designation, making them the first and only International Dark Sky Community in Colorado, the 9th in the world, and the highest anywhere.
Experience Colorado’s darkest skies and brightest stars for yourself at a Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley Star Party. These free public events are scheduled from May to October based on current astronomical events. Join them and experience their powerful, state of the art telescope at the Smokey Jack Observatory at Bluff Park in downtown Westcliffe.
photo credit: Dark Skies, Inc. of the Wet Mountain Valley
➤ For more information on Westcliffe/Silver Cliff’s night sky
- April 5th at 8 pm
- May 10th at 8 pm
- June 7th at 8 pm
- July 5th at 9 pm
- August 2nd at 9 pm
- August 12th at 11:30 pm
- September 6th at 8:45 pm
- October 4th at 7:15 pm
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