Finding the right location to set-up your astronomical viewing is very important and relatively easy. Inside this section you can find information on locations around and inside Tucson, Arizona for decent dark skies. It is imperative to find an open area which is not to lighted up for your stargazing. this guide should help you find a spot even if you are unfamiliar with tucson, or Arizona.
This website contains vital information on stargazing in and around Tucson, Arizona.
- Astro Photography
- Astronomy Links
- Astronomy News
- Arizona Astronomy Clubs
It contains star charts, guides to amatuer viewing, links to vital astronomy resources, and much more. All designed for use by the typical amateur astronomer in the Tucson, and Southern Arizona area.
For other Arizona astronomy resources please check out Arizona Astronomy.
- Types of telescopes
- Telescope set-up
- Help making a Telescope choice
- Telescope FAQ
- Telescope Accessories
- Optics (lenses)
- Color filters
- Other Telescopes
- Telescope Locations
- Star Charts
- Why you need Telescope
- How to read and use Telescope
- Where to get a Telescope
- Space Weather
- Tucson Weather
- Arizona weather
- Moon phases
Because Arizona is only populated in a few areas there is a vast selection of good locations for your stargazing. This guide is for Southern Arizona, but does not mean that there is no other good places to go to get dark skies. Simply put we currently live in Southern Arizona and want to share some locations that we have found near Tucson. It does require a modest drive of about 1.5hrs one way, but is well worth the trip.
Safford Arizona is our number one choice. It is located about 120 miles east of Tucson, and is located 30 miles north of I-10. There are several reasons why this is our top pick. First its not that far away and can be traveled to by way of a major interstate. The population of Safford is roughly 10,000 people, so as the light pollution is minimal. When we say dark skies, we mean it. You can easily see the Milky way, in fact it stands out like a sore thumb. There is food and gas stations, as well as lodging. Safford is at the base of the third largest mountain in the state Mt. Graham. This mountain does a really good job of shielding the area from light pollution caused by Tucson, and Phoenix. It currently plays a major role in astronomy due to the international observatory located at the top of Mt Graham. We do not suggest going up the mountain to stargaze because of limited fields of view, but anywhere at the base or around Safford is fine. There also is a visitors area with a decent scope you can go and look through. More info on this. I have gone there several times and suggest a star chart if you have never been in dark skies, it gets a little confusing if you don’t.
If you have a location in Southern Arizona which you feel should be listed here please email us and we will be happy to post it.
Area Around Tucson
It is a better idea to get out of Tucson to stargaze. There are many places to go within a 30min drive from anywhere in Tucson. There are basically three places I have gone which was dark, close to Tucson, and free.
Gates Pass is located on the west side of town and offers really dark skies but has a limited field of view. Because its located on the west side it is advisable to look primarily to the west. The east view is not really good here due to Tucson’s light pollution. To find Gates Pass just head west on Speedway blvd and you will run into it.
Houghton Road south of I-10 is another good spot for observing. The Milky way is visible along with about 1000 other objects which can not be seen inside Tucson. Houghton rd is located on the east side of Tucson, and can be found by heading east on I-10. Look for the exit, and head south from there.
The town of Oracle is located north of Tucson, and can be found by heading north on Oracle rd. Once you put Mt Lemmon in between you and Tucson the skies tend to really darken. This is the darkest skies possible for the drive, and you may get confused if your not used to seeing non-light polluted skies
Finding a dark spot in Tucson can be challenging especially if you are new to Tucson or just visiting. Realize that you can view lots of astronomical objects from inside Tucson with little difference in their appearance from a location outside Tucson. Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, and more can all be seen even with the naked eye in Tucson city limits. Look for a park or dark parking lot to do your stargazing. If you are planning on looking at the moon or any of the planets in our solar system than your backyard or a parking lot is all you need. If your goal is to see the Milky Way, nebulas, or other deep sky objects than you will need to go outside Tucson. I usually just use the parking lot of a grocery store, or apartments to do my in town viewing.