Stargazing

Starry, Starry Nights

Sundet over the Park HQ.Explore the sights above Lost Maples at night! Attend a star party or marvel at the stars on your own.

Check out these free stargazing tools:

How dark is it?

The Bortle Dark-Sky Scale measures how well you can see objects in the sky at night. Light pollution and sky glow can interfere with your ability to see “celestial objects.”

The scale ranges from Class 1, the darkest skies available on Earth, through Class 9, inner-city skies. Lost Maple’s Bortle Scale rating is 3. (Visit Bortle Scale Ratings page to see ratings for all state parks.)

The map below shows the sky glow around the park with colors that match the Bortle scale.

Lost Maples State Natural Area Light Pollution Map links to cleardarksky.com
Lost Maples State Natural Area Light Pollution Map. The park is at the crosshairs. Visit the Clear Dark Sky website for more information.

Clear Sky Chart

A Clear Sky Chart is an astronomer’s forecast about sky conditions, including, darkness, cloudiness, transparency and the seeing quality. Find more information about the Clear Sky Chart.

Lost Maples Clear Sky Chart

Real-time dark sky monitoring

We have installed a dark sky monitor to measure the relative darkness of the sky above the park. The monitoring station posts readings to this page every 15 minutes during the night. The meter is not active during daylight.

Current reading

Below you will see the real time sky darkness measurements at Lost Maples State Park. Remember, the meter does not take readings during the day.

The chart shows the current sky darkness readings in Mag/Sq Arcsec (magnitudes per square arc second) and NELM (naked eye limiting magnitude). The higher the number in Mag/Sq Arcsec and NELM, the darker it is.

A reading greater than 21.5 Mag/Sq Arcsec or 6.0 NELM indicates a very dark sky. Readings greater than 22.5 Mag/Sq Arcsec typically mean that the sky is cloudy.

Learn more about these terms on our Astronomy Definitions page.

SQM Current Readings for South Llano River SP
SQM Current Readings

 

Current night’s graphs

The graphs below show fluctuations in sky darkness over time. One chart shows NELM measurements and the other shows Mag/Sq Arcsec. Again, the monitoring station takes readings every 15 minutes throughout the night and posts in real time. 

In these graphs, the blue line represents the sky quality meter reading. The line with white circles shows the altitude of the moon. Look for the current phase of the moon, as a percentage, in the lower right corner of the graph. The blue line will decrease as the moon rises, because as the moon climbs higher in the sky, the sky brightens. Conversely, the blue line will increase as the moon sets:  as the moon gets lower in the sky, the sky darkens.

SQM Nelm Graph
Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude
 
SQM MPSAS Graph
Magnitudes per Square Arcsecond

 

The rising and setting of the moon, the Milky Way passing directly overhead, and man-made light can cause fluctuations in sky darkness. 

To learn more, look up current moon phase information for Lost Maples State Natural Area or see the current moon phase calendar.