“Sedona’s clear, dark nights are ideal for star-gazing and I could think of nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve. So last Wednesday I took a 15 minute drive from West Sedona to experience an unforgettable Tour of the Universe with Evening Sky Tours. Along with a group of locals and tourists, I sat in fold ’em up chairs, warmed by blankets, and kept my head up, eyes peeled on the night sky open to see whatever I may. Meanwhile, astronomers Dave and Matt had mighty telescopes to view stars in the sky and we took turns….”

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Stargazing with Evening Sky Tours
“You may glimpse heavenly bodies from time to time in the city, but they’re dim entertainments indeed compared to the celestial spread in Sedona, where this summer you can get ringside seats to a Saturn sighting. At 9 p.m., professional astronomers with Evening Sky Tours (928-853-9778, eveningskytours.com) spend an hour and a half blowing your mind, astronomically speaking. Tickets cost $60 per adult, $35 per child older than 6….”

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“…Or, experience the night sky like very few get to. Situated far, far away from any major city, combined with the clear Northern Arizona sky, Sedona has some of the best star gazing available. At Tours of the Universe you will see the sky like you have never seen before. With tours of the night sky and powerful telescopes to gaze upon planets, like Saturn and Mars, you will be truly amazed at what you have previously missed out on….

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“We chose Evening Sky Tours because they had the most professional and informative website and were by far the most well-reviewed, from people we talked to in person to yelp. The sky tour costs $60 per adult, but because it seemed like such a unique thing to do – and where better than in Sedona, desert land far away from city lights with a sky full of glowing stars? – we decided it was a small price to pay….

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“When the lights went out — and temperatures dipped into the low 50s — we joined David Sanders of Evening Sky Tours. The company offers nightly stargazing, with guides who know their way around Jupiter.

Sanders led nine of us across a darkened soccer field to chairs with two blankets each to wrap ourselves in. Wearing a full-length parka that I wanted to steal, Sanders taught us about different constellations and gave each of us an opportunity to view our great big world from a high-powered telescope. We saw the two main gaseous rings around Saturn, galaxies, the Milky Way cluster and a close-up of the moon. With three packs of coyotes howling in the distance, and a smashing shooting star, it was a dazzling experience….

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“If you’re unfamiliar with western skies at night, you’re in for a treat. Lack of light pollution, combined with haze-free, low-humidity desert skies, makes Sedona a paradise for stargazers. Take the Evening Sky Tours and the heavens drop right in your lap. Evening Sky Tours sets up outside of Sedona where professional astronomers act as guides. They begin by using laser pointers to diagram an overview of the very universe. After this introduction, guests are given time on state-of-the-art telescopes to hone in on comets, planets and galaxies. Suddenly the rings of Saturn seem close enough to slip onto your finger….”

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“Just because it’s too dark to see the red rocks doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see and do in Sedona at night. How about a tour of the heavens? Evening Sky Tours (tel. 866/701-0398 or 928/203-0006; www.eveningskytours.com) takes advantage of the dark night skies over Sedona to lead people on astronomy tours of the stars and planets. Tours cost $60 for adults and $20 for children….”

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A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY

“Thanks to strict ordinances on light pollution, the dark skies over Sedona are ideal for stargazing (or U.F.O. spotting). Take a cosmic journey with Evening Sky Tours (866-701-0398; www.eveningskytours.com; $60, $20 ages 6 to 15), which offers professional astronomers who can point out those elusive constellations, as well as an eyeful of spiral galaxies and the rings of Saturn. They’ll meet you at a dark spot or even take a telescope to your hotel….”

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Star Attractions!

“Sedona is uniquely situated for astronomers to go skygazing; here’s your guide to a different kind of glitterati

For as long as humans have inhabited our corner of Arizona, their necks have been craned to the sky, gazing at the stars. Look at the pictographs of animals and hunters at the Palatki Heritage Site southwest of Sedona, and you’ll see an image that many believe to be a star; images of sun- and moon-like objects can be found at rock art sites all around the Verde Valley. To the north, the Hopi, believed to be descendants of the Sinagua people that populated the Verde Valley, tell a story about a boy who creates the Milky Way in order to climb up to the sun.

In Sedona and the surrounding areas today, the fascination with the heavens continues, and our night sky is uniquely suited to stargazing. Want to join the fun? On the following pages, we’ll introduce you to local astronomy clubs and two spots all stargazers should know: Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff and Meteor Crater just east of Flagstaff. And if all the talk about celestial bodies inspires you to plan your own star party, meet the man behind Evening Sky Tours, which will provide the telescopes and the astronomers if you provide the guests. Finally, learn about the International Dark Sky Association, Sedona’s lighting ordinance, and why it’s important to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum. Sedona may be hundreds of miles east of Hollywood but if we preserve our dark skies, we’ll continue to see more stars here than you’ll see in L.A. any night of the week….”

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