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Best stargazing events of 2023 – Lonely Planet

The snake shadow appears on El Castillo on the spring equinox, Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico

Prepare for liftoff, armchair astronauts: 2023 promises to be an enchanting year for sky-gazing enthusiasts, with fiery eclipses, annual equinox celebrations and blazing meteor showers happening almost every month. 

Whether you’re a traveler willing to make the trek to experience the celestial sublime or a backyard astronomer searching for “shooting stars” (meteors, which burn up in Earth’s atmosphere), there’s something on the calendar to make your year sparkle.

Look up: here are all the happenings you won’t want to miss. 

On the spring equinox, the light falling on Chichén Itzá’s El Castillo pyramid creates a serpentine shadow © BornaMir / iStockphoto / Getty Images

March 20: The spring equinox 

The spring (or vernal) equinox marks one of two days during the year when the sun passes directly over Earth’s equator, creating a near-equal amount of daytime and nighttime globally. In the northern hemisphere, it signals longer days and warmer weather ahead; in the southern hemisphere, it marks autumn’s arrival. 

Human beings around the world have paid homage to this astronomical milestone for millions of years, and it’s moving indeed to celebrate the event at ancient architectural sites around the world. For one of the most impressive displays, fly to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, where a slithering shadow crawls across gray limestone on key afternoons of the year, including the spring equinox. The effect is created by El Castillo – a pyramid built around 800 CE within the Mayan complex of Chichén Itzá – whose shadows form the shape of a 120-foot-long snake, believed to honor the serpent god Kukulkán in hopes of a fruitful harvest. 

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April 22–23: The Lyrids meteor shower peaks

Backyard skywatchers can enjoy flares from this light show, set to light up the northern and southern hemispheres with approximately 18 meteors every hour. The event runs from April 15 to 29, with showers peaking on the night of April 22 to 23. The light show comes right around a new moon, making it easy to spot meteors blazing across the sky. 

For the best views, head to an International Dark Sky Park, any of those recognized by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) for exceptional starry nights. Whether it’s the beech forests of Germany’s Eifel National Park, the desert landscape of Israel’s Makhtesh…

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