Stargazing in Texas Frequently Asked Questions
If you live in Texas or are just visiting, Alison and I welcome you to one of the best places in the U.S. to stargaze! We aren’t just saying that because it’s our home. Texas is actually home to a huge number of great places to see the stars.
The purpose of this page is to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions on the internet about Texas stargazing. When you are finished, don’t forget to check out the rest of our website and social media channels or explore more of our blog!
Can you see the stars in Texas?
You absolutely can see stars in Texas! We actually shoot lots of astrophotography and stargaze whenever we go camping all over the great state of Texas. Check out some of Alison’s images on Instagram or YouTube to see some of our favorite places to stargaze. Your best bet to see the most stars in Texas is to travel to the western part of the state away from any heavily light polluted urban area.
Can I see the Milky Way in Texas?
You can definitely see the Milky Way in Texas! When people talk about seeing the Milky Way, they are usually referring to the Galactic Core of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Since most people live under light polluted skies, they cannot see the Milky Way, so it’s important to travel far away from cities and areas with lots of lights.
Where is the best place in Texas to see the Milky Way?
To view the Milky Way in Texas, head as far away from light pollution as possible. You don’t have to be under the darkest skies in the state such as Big Bend National Park or Big Bend Ranch State Park like you might read on other websites. A Bortle 4 sky or lower is typically when you will see definition in the Milky Way that’s good enough to view clearly. Whenever our family heads to the darker green areas on this map, we can see the Milky Way in Texas just fine.
It should be noted, when we are talking about viewing the Milky Way, it usually means we are interested in seeing the Milky Way Core since we actually live in the Milky Way Galaxy.
When is the best time of year to see the Milky Way in Texas?
Your chance of seeing the Milky Way in Texas can be increased based on the month you are looking for it. March through October is the best time to see the Milky Way Core since it tends to dip below the horizon in the colder months. In the middle months of June, July, and August the Milky Way is typically more vertical in the night sky. In the bookend months of March, April, May, September, and October, the Milky Way can appear a bit more horizontal in the night sky.
Where in Texas has the least light pollution?
If you look at a light pollution map, you will see that overall East Texas has more light pollution than West Texas. There are definitely pockets of relatively dark skies in the east with some Bortle 3 skies, but the west is definitely best for stargazing. The least amount of light pollution in Texas is down in the southwest area of the state. You’ll discover amazingly dark Bortle 1 skies in Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and in the area just outside of Fort Davis. Just head south on the 118 from Alpine, and you won’t be disappointed by this incredibly dark area!
Where is the darkest place in Texas?
The darkest place in Texas is located in the mountains of Big Bend National Park in the southwestern part of the state. With Bortle 1 skies and no light pollution for miles in addition to numerous valleys within this park, any light pollution on the horizon is shielded from view by the mountainous terrain. Devil’s River National Recreation Area is NOT the darkest place in Texas even though it was designated as an International Dark-Sky Sanctuary in 2019. It only has Bortle 2 skies and some light pollution can be seen on the horizon. (I hope Google fixes the search result as the answer to this question.)
Why are there no stars in Texas?
There are plenty of stars in Texas! If you are wondering about stars in the sky, you might be located near a large city or a town with plenty of light pollution. To see stars, travel away from the city center until you are somewhere more rural.
If you are wondering about celebrity stars, Texas has plenty of those too. Some love part-time in the state, and others are full-time residents. Here are several notable stars: Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Tommy Lee Jones, Willie Nelson, Jason Lee, Elijah Wood, George Foreman, Mark Cuban, and Don Henley.
Is there a dark sky park in Texas?
There are multiple dark sky parks in Texas. Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, and South Llano River State Park are all dark sky parks registered with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Each one of these parks is open for the public to use and enjoy viewing of the night sky. UBarU Camp and Retreat Center is also designated as a dark sky park. It is a Unitarian Universalist retreat located an hour west of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country.
Can you see the Milky Way from Houston?
You cannot see the Milky Way in downtown Houston. There is far too much light pollution downtown, and the city center is classified as a Bortle 9. This means you will only see a few of the brightest stars. As you move away from the city, you will begin to see more stars. Try heading north 2 hours to Davy Crockett National Forest for darker Bortle 3 and 4 skies. Also, try heading to the south past Bay City where you’ll find Bortle 4 skies an hour and a half away.
Can you see the stars in Austin?
You can see some stars within the city boundary of Austin, Texas but not many. Since Austin is a major metropolitan area, you will need to travel away from the city center to escape light pollution. Downtown Austin has Bortle 8 skies which makes it tough to see more than a handful of stars. Try heading west past the town of Llano, Texas to discover very dark Bortle 3 and 2 skies.
Can you see the stars in Dallas?
It is very difficult to see more than a few of the brightest stars in downtown Dallas. This is because the amount of light pollution in this densely populated urban area puts the city at a Bortle 9. Travel outside the city center to less populated areas to view darker skies. We recommend heading west of the city to see Bortle 3 and 2 skies. Try the amazing Copper Breaks State Park 3 ½ hours or any open area past the town of Graham, Texas for stunning Bortle 2 skies. We are also excited about Palo Pinto State Park with Bortle 3 skies which is expected to open in 2023.
You can always just head to the American Airlines Center to watch the Dallas Stars play hockey if you are looking for the other stars of Dallas.
Where can you stargaze in Texas?
Texas has lots of options for stargazing depending on where you live or are visiting in the state. You will discover better stargazing opportunities as you move away from heavily populated areas with lots of light pollution. The darkest skies in the state can be found in the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve which is the world’s largest protected dark sky area. If you are unable to travel to the southwest part of Texas to its incredibly dark Bortle 1 skies but still want to see the stars, try staying in the western part of the state where there is generally less light pollution. Basically, you can see stars all over the state, but the west is best!
Is Big Bend a dark sky park?
Big Bend National Park is absolutely a dark sky park! In fact, it was classified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International-Dark Sky Association in 2021. Plus, the National Park Service has declared it to be the darkest of all the national parks in the lower 48 states. This is due to the very limited number of towns in the region. Big Bend Ranch State Park is also a dark sky park if you are looking for a relatively nearby state park for stargazing.
Is there an observatory in Texas?
There are both public and private observatories in Texas. If you are looking for a great one to visit that is open to the public, try McDonald Observatory located near the town of Fort Davis, Texas. It houses the Hobby-Eberly telescope which is one of the largest optical telescopes in the world and one of five large telescopes at McDonald Observatory.
We hope this page helps you to better understand stargazing in the state of Texas. If you are interested in diving into astrophotography, try some of our other articles.
About the Authors
We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as “Roadtrippin’ with Takacs”. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.