Sky Show: Death Valley After Sunset

The celebrated Perseids are just a few months away, but there are wonders to see before August.

Dana McMullen/Furnace Creek Resort

THE DESERT REGION, and, in particular, Death Valley National Park, get a lot of attention from what's happening from sunrise to the moment the big ball o' fire dips behind the furthest mountain range. We describe arid areas as "sunny" and "super-duper sunny" and "so sunshiny you'd think you're standing on Mercury," the nearest planet to the sun. This is, in large part, what makes the desert the desert — beautiful, warm, often hot, golden days — but so much of the action in the area happens when the sun has ceded its stage to a host of other stars, that fabled blanket of night. Few places are starrier than Death Valley and our California deserts, thanks to their deep, low-illumination darkness, and to their wide-of-sky, vast-of-horizon feel. Okay, maybe a planetarium might sport more stars, but to see those gaseous, faraway superstars in their natural habitat, the desert truly is among the most desired locales. And coming up?

THERE ARE METEOR SHOWERS, like the famous Perseids in August, but there are sky shows ahead of that. The Eta Aquarids took place on May 6 and 7, but the Delta Aquarids are ahead with a 20-meteors-per-hour kind of extravaganza ("at its peak") in late July. And, yep, the Perseids shall grandly return on Aug. 12 and 13, 2017. Where to stay? Furnace Creek Resort is a fine in-the-national-park choice, and finding a dark-dark spot near the Inn or Ranch shouldn't be too hard (so bring your portable telescope, or simply your awe and wonder). No one's dissing the sun — it's a grand and glorious source of light, heat, and life, through and through — but loving the desert after-sunset, at its least sunshiny, is part of adoring la vida aridness, too.

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