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There is no better way to celebrate the summer solstice than with the Chaco Night Sky Program!

What is the Chaco Night Sky Program?

Chaco Culture Natural Historic Park offers astronomy programs that emphasize the practices of the Chacoan people a thousand years ago. It also supports modern approaches to viewing the same night sky they viewed–in a remote environment with clear, dark skies, and free from urban light pollution.

Chaco Canyon Horsehead Nebula

Horsehead Nebula, taken from Chaco Observatory

Let the Stars Shine

Astronomy also provides an opportunity to protect park resources. The park retrofitted all park lighting to reduce light pollution and enhance night sky viewing. In 1993, the park designated the night sky as a critical natural resource to be protected and has worked on efforts to reduce the threat of urban light pollution in the Southwest. The park’s natural nighttime darkness, commitment to reducing light pollution, and ongoing public outreach led the International Dark-Sky Association to certify it as an International Dark Sky Park on August 19, 2013. Chaco Culture National Historical Park is the twelfth park to receive the designation worldwide. It is also only the fourth unit of the U.S. National Park System.

chaco observatory

Observe the Cosmos

In May 1998, the park dedicated the Chaco Observatory. With over 3,000 annual visitors and school groups that attend the public astronomy programs, amateur astronomers help monitor light pollution levels in the region and use Charged Couple Device (CCD) imaging systems to image deep-space objects. Volunteers then help the park present programs on Chacoan connections, our scientific understanding of the universe, and the hands-on use of a telescope. The observatory also hosts several events each year, from an annual Astronomy Festival in September to bi-annual star parties, and, of course, solstice and equinox events. For the summer solstice in June, join us for a sunrise program presented at Casa Rinconada, a Chacoan great kiva, where you will join park staff to observe the sunrise and the solstice marker of light inside the kiva.

Ready to Bask in the Stars?

Click here to contact us today to start planning your New Mexican adventure! The stars will certainly prove you’ve entered the Land of Enchantment.

Chaco Observatory Swan Nebula

Swan Nebula, taken from Chaco Observatory