We all remember laying on the grass on a perfect summer night when we were kids, staring up at the starry night sky. That beautiful, star-riddled sky is quickly disappearing, however – right before our eyes.

According to a recent Forbes.com article, the vast number of stars that were once visible have been concealed by the blinding reflection of industrialized lighting – which can reflect up to 200 miles from its source – and the unfortunate hazy mist that results from the incredible amount of air pollution that is now present in our atmosphere.

“You can no longer just take a short drive from the city and look at the Milky Way or the northern lights,” claims Chad Moore, a director for the International Dark-Sky Association. In fact, researchers estimate that the average person is now only able to view about 500 stars in the sky on what we would consider to be an exceptionally clear night.

The alarming effects of pollution and the increasing amount of obtrusive light that results from continuous industrial development are certainly cause for concern, especially if you are an avid stargazer. However, Forbes has compiled a list of the very best locations to check out a purely dark night sky that is chock-full of constellations. These locations may be off the beaten path, but the International Dark-Sky Association promises that the trip will be well worth it.

  • Natural Bridges National Park, Utah: The skies are so dark here that the average person will actually be able to see the Milky Way, a sight that is virtually invisible from your backyard. During the warm summer months, the park offers various informational programs, including night walks, in an effort to teach the public about astronomy. The sky you’ll see at Natural Bridges is considered to be one of the darkest skies in the world, making it an excellent location for stargazing.
  • Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania: Cherry Springs is the only additional U.S. Park recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association. The park boasts 48 incredible acres of land on which visitors can view a totally uninterrupted night sky. Here, there will be no interruptions from airplanes or other sources of light. In fact, the sky here is so dark that you just may be able to view the nucleus of the Milky Way, a sight that is rarely visible anywhere else on earth.
  • Mont-Megantic National Park, Quebec, Canada: If you are willing to travel internationally to get a glimpse of a pristine night sky, Mont-Megantic is the perfect destination. Not only is this park famed for its undisturbed sky, but it also houses the impressive ASTROLab, which offers an observatory and educational center that is open to the general public.
  • South Wales, Australia: The 100 acres of land set underneath an incredibly dark and undisturbed sky here in South Wales are the site of the South Pacific Star Party, which brings together close to 400 people yearly for a few days of incredible stargazing.

The view above these locations, according to the International Dark-Sky Association, boasts what could be considered the last remaining pristine skies in the world. If you are unable to take an exotic vacation, you can still appreciate the astral beauty of the big sky. Take a drive to an area that is fairly far removed from large industrial areas, spread out a blanket, and bring your binoculars or telescope: there is nothing comparable to staring up at the night sky in awe, just like you did when you were a kid.

For additional information related to the very best locales for the ultimate stargazing experience, visit the International Dark-Sky Association website. You can also view weekly stargazing information at StarDate Online and find out exactly where and when you will be able to view the most impressive astral sights.

Related article courtesy of MSNBC.com and Forbes.com.

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