Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - 24

Around GEORGIA

By Pamela A. Keene

Eye in the sky

GEORGIA PHOTOGRAPHY FANATIC

Glittering views are best in the dark

In the darkest place in Georgia, the Milky Way looks like an explosion
of stars.

I

n a dark-sky location, the Milky Way galaxy looks like a
bright cloud of light across the heavens. However, many
people never have the chance to see the full impact of our
solar system's host galaxy.
"Because there is so much light pollution in urban areas
of the country, the Milky Way can be almost invisible to most
people," says David Dundee, astronomer at the Tellus Science
Museum in Cartersville. "But once you've seen it in all its glory,
you really can't get enough of it. And when you see it in some of
the darkest places on earth, you can't help but be dazzled by the
immense number of stars, nebulae and gas clouds that paint
the sky."
Stephen C. Foster State Park in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp is one of the darkest places in the Southeast. The
park was certified in 2016 as one of the best stargazing locations
in the nation by the International Dark-Sky Association. Florida
and Tennessee each have two designated locations, and North
Carolina has one.
Accessible from Fargo, Stephen C. Foster State Park is
situated on the 120-acre Jones Island and surrounded by the
400,000 acres of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge that
stretches across South Georgia and into North Florida.
Even in an urban setting with moderate light pollution,
people can spot some familiar star patterns-such as the Big

24

Georgia Magazine

August 2020

Dipper in the northern sky, especially in the spring, and Orion
as it rises in the east in the winter-because of the brighter stars
they contain. But viewing the stars and objects of the night sky
away from artificial lights brings a new perspective to the term
stargazing.
"We're located far enough away from light pollution from
cities, towns and populated areas that the sky views on a moonless night are almost indescribable," says Josh Snead, interpretive ranger at Stephen C. Foster State Park. "People come here
from around the Southeast to view the stars, [and] we have
created regular programming to highlight specific astronomical
events, such as meteor showers, and optimum views of various
constellations."

Planning for gazing
Events such as the monthly Swamper's Guide to the Galaxy
and Paddle Under the Stars, which feature ranger-led explorations of the Okefenokee Swamp at sunset, introduce casual
stargazers and amateur astronomers to the wonders of the
night sky.
"In addition to cloud cover, visibility is dependent on
other factors," Snead says. "For instance, even with our dark-sky
designation, it's important to check about the phases of the
moon and the schedule of moonrise and moonset when



Georgia Magazine - August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - August 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Contents
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