Wildcat Mountain at night

Photos by Alayne Hendricks at Wildcat Mountain State Park January 2023.

Driftless Dark Skies: Enjoying and Conserving (February 2024)

February looks to be an excellent month to experience starry skies and discover ways to preserve them for future generations.

Stargazing in Wildcat Mountain State ParkWednesday February 7 at Kickapoo Valley Reserve. Driftless Dialogue: Protecting our Night Skies. Scott Lind will be sharing a presentation on smart lighting and how to make your home safer, your community more attractive, and your skies starrier. Scott Lind is a retired licensed professional electrical engineer and master electrician. Drinks and snacks start at 6:30pm, talk starts at 7pm. The talk is more fun in person. If you can’t make it, KVR should be sharing it on their YouTube channel later in the month.

Saturday February 10 at Wildcat Mountain State Park. Hike, snowshoe, or ski a 1.5 mile torchlit trail, warm up around a roaring campfire, and gaze up at the stars. Starts at 5pm. If skies are clear, I’ll be there to share some stagazing. Bring binoculars and learn to use them for skywatching. Wildcat Mountain is such a model for other state parks. Over the last two years, they have made their lighting smarter so you can enjoy the night sky. And they have created a Starlight Trail to make it easier for everyone to experience the park at twilight and night.

Saturday, February 24 at Wyalusing State Park. Candle Light Hike. 6-9pm. Adventure outdoors at night on the groomed trails where the snow will be packed for the best walking conditions. After hiking, enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, and a bonfire. There will also be a telescope set up for viewing the stars. Starsplitters of Wyalusing offer public astronomy programs throughout the year and are most welcoming to new members.

Saturday February 24 at Kickapoo Valley Reserve. Full Moon & Illuminated Ice Hike. 6-8pm. Enjoy a hike along Weister Creek by light of the Full Snow Moon and then enjoy the illuminated ice formations. KVR has created a website to make it easy for you to enjoy the public land after dark and chosen “Celebrating the Night Sky” for their 2024 theme! If you’re feeling crafty, pick up a canvas and share your experience of the nocturnal world.

Starry skies await you all month. There’s 75 minutes less of night as we head through February. New Moon is February 9, so early in the month is best to enjoy skies free of moonlight. The Full Snow Moon is February 24, so later in the month is best to enjoy an evening moonlight hike. Wherever and whenever, I hope you enjoy the February skies!

John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. He volunteers with NASA/JPL as a Solar System Ambassador , with the International Dark-Sky Association as an Advocate, and the International Astronomical Union as a Dark Sky Ambassador. For more information about stargazing in southwest WI, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies.

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