Stargazing in North Dakota: What's Out There?
Several years ago when I had work that required travel between Bismarck and Fargo, I always made it a point to return home late in the evening, well after dark, for millions of reasons: the stars.
Perception has changed in recent years, slowly, but it is changing. What used to be “There is nothing there,” doesn’t ring true because we are changing the perception. And it’s through things like the stars that we are able to show people that having less doesn’t mean having nothing, and that if less is done right, then that’s OK.
Which takes us back to stars. There are millions of those bright, twinkling planets that appear just out of our reach. Close enough to reach out and touch, yet far enough away that they aren’t cluttering things up. I can see them and other celestial wonders by simply looking.
On my weekly return trips from Fargo, there are many interstate on-off ramps in what some people call the middle of nowhere. They’re all somewhere. Many were my own personal universal theater. I would pull off on a ramp in the darkest areas, shut the car off and lay back on the windshield. In the crisp, dry fall air, the stars shined bright, the Northern Lights danced, jets lights twinkled and shooting stars or satellites buzzed by. At times, distant thunderstorms produced lighting that lit up rolling thunderheads. A half hour or so later, I would be on the road again.
A person doesn’t have to travel across the state to enjoy night skies. They can see them from campsites in state and national parks and from our rivers and lakes, and even their back yards. North Dakota night skies can make a person appreciate everything they are and yet remind them of how truly insignificant we are in this vast universe.
North Dakota is a state with energetic cities, unique small towns and miles of watchable night skies between their lighted landscapes.
Visitors to North Dakota should make it a point to get out of town in the evening. Look at the stars and take that mental picture with them when they leave. When they get home and their neighbors and friends give them that puzzled look about visiting North Dakota, they can point to the sky and tell them the heavens are in North Dakota.