The best chance we have to find the darkest sky near Rochester is to head as far away from the city as possible without moving closer to another city.
Sounds logical, though not easy to achieve without a good deal of planning. If you want to get to the best possible location, head away from Monroe County.
Make your next day trip a night trip
Pick a location that falls in the green-to-dark-blue category, detailed in the legend above from The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness by Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
We used their data to determine the darkest destinations around Rochester from which to observe the Universe.
Destinations northeast of the City of Rochester close to Lake Ontario and south of US-20 in the Finger Lakes region will offer the darkest possible options to view meteor showers, stars, planets, and the Milky Way.
Specifically, if you head close to the locations below—one for each county—you’ll be under the darkest sky near Rochester.
The Sky This Week
You can all visit the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium to see their stellar show, “The Sky Tonight” all year long. Narrated by Planetarium Director, Steve, he’ll give you a tour of the sky so you can discover what stars, planets, and other celestial bodies are in view each week.
Perseid Meteor Shower
Each August you can see the Perseid Meteor Shower just looking up, though the meteors will seem to originate from a place just beneath Cassiopeia which will be east of Rochester. It’s easier to find the ‘W’ shaped constellation than Perseus, for which the shower is named.
The best time to be out there is a few hours after sundown.
In addition, late summer is prime time for viewing the Milky Way!
Pack a lounge chair, bug repellent, and a blanket a spend a few hours gazing into the cosmos. A red flashlight can help you see, but not ruin your night vision like white light. It takes about 20 minutes to adjust our eyes to the dark, but just a few seconds of white light can ruin that.
Optimal viewing conditions
You could get really lucky waking up at the right time, or just look ahead at the cloud cover forecast to find an optimal time to observe the Universe unobstructed by cloud cover.
This photo of Orion was taken with my phone ( I was lucky to wake up at 4:45 am to a crystal, clear dark sky.) You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to see the Orion Nebula along Orion’s Sword.
These photographers thrive on finding the darkest sky near Rochester!
Allegany State Park
Find the darkest sky near Rochester
If you’d like to go these locations specifically, make sure to contact them first to determine what permissions may be required, or whether gates close. You may need to spend the night camping. State Parks often host official “Star-Gazing” nights with experts.
1. Montezuma Audubon Center
The Audubon Center is located in Savannah, just north of the thruway, and its waterways are interconnected with Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.
2. Hemlock Lake Park
This is where many night-sky photographers head to capture the Milky Way, looking south.
3. Letchworth State Park
4. Lakeside Beach State Park
5. Canasaraga State Forest
6. Keuka Lake State Park
7. Gannett Hill
8. Finger Lakes National Forest
9. Golden Hill State Park
10. Hanging Bog Game Management Area
11. Fair Haven Beach State Park
12. Allegany State Park
Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a two hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them each unique!
Where is your favorite spot go sit under the darkest sky near Rochester?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!