The best chance we have to find the darkest skies 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 skies near Rochester.
Perseid Meteor Shower
You can see the Perseid Meteor Shower in the early mornings leading up to August 12.
The Perseids will appear to originate beneath ‘W’ shaped Cassiopeia in the eastern sky, which is easier to locate than Perseus, for which the shower is named.
In addition, late summer is prime time for observing 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.
According to earthsky.org’s article entitled, Perseid Meteors: All You Need To Know:
“No matter where you live worldwide, the Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.
The presence of a bright, full moon may hinder your ability to see the meteor shower clearly, so keep that in mind when deciding what time is best. Each year is different.
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 unique.
Where is your favorite spot go sit under the darkest sky near Rochester?
Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!