Highways and Byways: Search for! Taiwan’s stargazing hotspots

A information to a number of the greatest locations to stare upon celestial objects and why the east coast particularly presents very best viewing

  • By Steven Criminal / Contributing reporter

The universe past the Earth’s ambiance has fascinated Joseph Garrity for so long as he can keep in mind.

When he was in preschool, he pleaded together with his mom to remain up late for Star Trek. Throughout his middle-school years, he went to the theater 13 instances in a single month to look at the primary Star Wars film. These days, he can typically be discovered on Taiwan’s east coast late at evening, viewing and photographing the evening sky.

Garrity, an American who’s lived in Hualien for the previous 22 years, says that he is lucky to have a few of Taiwan’s greatest stargazing spots virtually on his doorstep.

Picture courtesy of Jim Hung

“The sunshine air pollution falls off dramatically simply north of Yanliao Fishing Harbor (鹽寮漁港). It is about as near town as you may get whereas being a low-light space in response to the Bortle scale,” he says.

The nine-level Bortle scale is a method for newbie astronomers to guage and evaluate the observability of celestial objects and the interference attributable to mild air pollution at completely different places. A Class 1 website presents distinctive dark-sky circumstances, whereas many inside metropolis areas fall into Class 9, by which solely the Moon, the planets, vibrant satellites and some of the brightest star clusters will be discerned.

Garrity says Yanliao, 20km south of central Hualien, might be Class 3 — a typical rural sky by which so much is seen, but with mild air pollution being evident on the horizon. If he drives out of Hualien in the other way, he provides, he can discover good sky-viewing circumstances a brief distance north of Cisingtan Scenic Space (七星潭海沿風景區).

Picture courtesy of Joseph Garrity

“Through the summer time at Yanliao, normally round mid-August, the Milky Method is erect within the evening sky round 10pm to 11pm. On clear weekend nights, there are sometimes many guests,” says Garrity, who first obtained into astronomy after his mom gave him a telescope one Christmas.

“I later purchased a modestly priced telescope. Since transferring to Taiwan, I’ve bought a sophisticated rig. I am utilizing a Schmidt-Cassegrain with an equatorial mount, together with astrophotography gear,” he says, explaining that the mount permits a telescope to find and monitor celestial objects, compensating for the Earth’s rotation through the use of an onboard motor and a pc.

Garrity goes stargazing as typically as Hualien’s wet local weather permits. As a result of he works late afternoons and evenings, he can keep out till the wee hours if circumstances are particularly good. Astrophotography includes taking “lengthy sequences of photos, normally dozens if not a whole bunch, with lengthy publicity instances per body, so an evening out rapidly turns into an all-nighter,” he says.

Picture courtesy of Joseph Garrity


For Garrity, this is not an inexpensive pastime. He is spent round US$5,000 on gear, however he advises newbies to start out with much less specialised, extra reasonably priced gear. “You should utilize binoculars and take footage with a DSLR digicam and tripod. For those who discover your curiosity evolving, then investing in dearer gear might be value it to you,” he says.

Picture courtesy of Taiwan Darkish-Sky Affiliation

The load of Garrity’s setup — one thing like 45kg — guidelines out hauling it to the summit of Jade Mountain (玉山) or one other excessive mountain. As a result of positioning the rig on secure floor is essential, he prefers locations like parking heaps.

Regardless of his ardour for celestial objects, he is but to understand the nightscape in Hehuan Mountain Darkish Sky Park (HMDSP, 合歡山暗空公園). The park was established in August 2019 with the help of Nantou County Authorities within the hope that it’ll entice stargazing vacationers.

“I would prefer to make a visit to HMDSP, however lodging is tough to come back by and it must be booked properly upfront. If the climate would not cooperate, cancellation charges might be an issue,” says Garrity.

He’d be keen to camp, however then the problem can be electrical retailers for recharging the quite a few items of drugs he makes use of.

The 1,345-hectare HMDSP is considered one of solely 4 dark-sky parks in Asia acknowledged by the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation (IDA). Two are in Japan, whereas South Korea has one.


HMDSP is amongst six stargazing places advisable by Axiou Lin (林正修), chairman of the Taiwan Darkish-Sky Affiliation (台灣暗空協會, TDA), which is affiliated to the IDA.

The others are: Tataka Saddle (塔塔加鞍部) in Yushan Nationwide Park; Daqiu Island (大坵島) within the Matsu Islands; Qimei (七美) in Penghu County; Xuhai Grassland (旭海草南) in Pingtung County; and Yangmingshan (陽明山) in Taipei and New Taipei Metropolis.

For the previous three years, the TDA has been serving to Daqiu to acquire IDA certification, “and we hope to have excellent news by the tip of this yr,” Lin says.

He lauds the Lianjiang County Authorities for tackling mild air pollution all through the Matsu Islands, and urges the Nantou County Authorities to do the identical for your complete space it administers, and never simply inside HMDSP.

Learning the evening sky by binoculars, and even with the bare eye, will be simply as thrilling as utilizing a professional-level telescope, Lin says. He suggests first-timers begin by downloading a star-tour app and utilizing www.lightpollutionmap.data to discover a promising night-sky viewing spot of their area.

Encouraging stargazing is a core objective of the TDA. “Our motto is ‘From the darkish sky, confront the air pollution of sunshine,'” says Lin, who warns that mild air pollution all over the world is growing twice as quick as human inhabitants progress.

He provides that, as a result of Taiwan’s inhabitants density is extraordinarily excessive, if this concern is not handled, irresponsible outside lighting “will quickly block our view of the universe.”

This issues, Lin says, as a result of people are curious by nature, and an extraplanetary perspective may help us grasp the fragility of the Earth.

Since historical instances, the evening sky has been a supply of marvel and inspiration. Individuals have been finding out and describing the constellations for millennia, however there’s nonetheless an enormous quantity to be realized.

Earlier this month, photos from the James Webb House Telescope have been revealed, revealing spectacular however hitherto elusive cosmic options. “Within the coming many years, astronomy would be the biggest journey in human information,” Lin says.

Whether or not you hope to study or merely to ingest magnificence, exit on a transparent evening, discover a good darkish spot in an unpopulated nook of the countryside, flip off your car’s lights and search for. You may be pleasantly stunned. You simply is perhaps amazed.

Steven Criminal has been writing about journey, tradition and enterprise in Taiwan since 1996. He’s the writer of Taiwan: The Bradt Journey Information and co-author of A Culinary Historical past of Taipei: Past Pork and Ponlai.

Some locations round Taiwan very best for skygazing:

Tainan Astronomical Schooling Space (南瀛天文教育園區)

The Jhongjhiguan Path (中之關步道)

The Cigu Seawall (七股海堤) in Tainan

Nantou County’s Dalun Mountain (大崙山) Viewing Mist Pavilion

Tainan Observatory

In case you are excited about discovering a spot close to you, here’s a map of places that folks have shared: shorturl.at/aelmP

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