7 places to stargaze around Madison

Light pollution is a hindrance to stargazing in Madison, but here are a few spots in the area where you can set up camp for a night of observing.
two people looking up at the sky at Donald County Park
Photo by Amandalynn Jones
Donald County Park

Light pollution is a hindrance to stargazing in Madison, but here are a few spots in the area where you can set up camp for a night of observing.

Yanna Research Station
This is the Madison Astronomical Society’s dark-sky observatory in Green County. The acre-and-a-half property is about 24 miles south of Madison, near the town of Brooklyn. Facilities include a clubhouse, a bathroom, buildings with and without domes, and portable telescopes in the clubhouse that you can take out to concrete pads. The observatory is available to observing members ($70 annual membership fee for the whole family) and their guests. madisonastro.org

★★★

Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center
On Saturday evenings when the skies are clear, let the StarSplitters Astronomy Club, a nonprofit group of amateur astronomers, point you in the right direction at the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center in Wyalusing State Park. This dark-sky site has multiple high-powered telescopes, including one with a steerable dome. Two events are free and open to the public this year on Sept. 25 and Oct. 30, and the club also accepts requests for small groups. starsplitters.org

★★★

Dane County Parks
Donald and Brigham county parks have the darkest skies and best viewing vistas for stargazing. Southeast of Mount Horeb, Donald County Park is where the Madison Astronomical Society holds its annual picnic. Brigham County Park, which offers panoramic views of the Wisconsin River Valley, is situated northeast of the village of Blue Mounds. A third option, Indian Lake County Park north of Cross Plains, has a historic chapel on the hill for your outing. danecountyparks.com

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Ernest Hüpeden’s Painted Forest
Painted Forest in the Sauk County unincorporated community of Valton is now home to Edgewood Astronomy Outreach’s high-powered telescope. The outreach program, led by Edgewood College adjunct instructor and astronomy outreach coordinator Kylee Martens, hosts star parties. The next two events are from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 18 and Oct. 16. facebook.com/edgewoodastro

★★★

Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area
This wildlife area toward Beaver Dam is a good place to set up a stargazing station not too far from Madison. It’s an ideal spot particularly for stargazing beginners, as you don’t have to stumble through the dark in a heavily wooded area. dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Lands/WildlifeAreas/horicon

★★★

Blue Mound State Park
Observation towers are the big draw here for stargazers, birders and sunset-watchers alike. The park in Blue Mounds is the highest point in southern Wisconsin. dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/bluemound

★★★

Devil’s Lake State Park
This crowd favorite in Baraboo is another good spot to check out what’s visible above. This is one location where Universe in the Park programs are held, but you can also camp on your own and travel to the lakeshore for great star viewing in a wide-open sky. devilslakewisconsin.com

Read more about Madison stargazing here.

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