Picture this: mountains beside you, grass below you, and a gleaming starry-night sky above. There’s a reason West Virginia is known as Almost Heaven. Here, you can get back to the basics and marvel at the natural beauty of a dark sky. West Virginia is home to showstopping stargazing spots with some of the clearest night skies east of the Mississippi. If you’re looking for an otherworldly experience, you’ll find that and more in a wide-open West Virginia sky.

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Probably the best know group of stars in the Northern Hemisphere is the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is not technically a constellation, but part of the constellation known as Ursa Major. The best time of year to find Ursa Major is during the summer. It is most easy to spot the cup and long handle of the Big Dipper.  The handle is part of the bear’s head and neck. The cup is part of the bear’s chest and front legs.


If you can find the Big Dipper it makes finding the Little Dipper easier. Once you find the Big Dipper find the two stars that form the right side of the cup. Starting at the bottom, make a straight line and you will see Polaris, the North Star. Polaris is the end start of the Little Dippers handle. Different that the Great Bear, the handle of the Little Dipper is the Little Bear’s Tail.  The cup forms part of the bear’s side. Once you spot the Little Dipper you have found Ursa Minor.


Orion is one of the easiest constellations to find in the stary sky. The best way to begin is to look for the three stars that form a straight line or Orion’s belt.  Next, you can follow the curved group of stars that makes the hunter’s bow or shield in one hand. The best time to spot Orion is during the winter months but the constellation can still be found early on summer mornings.


The Taurus constellation is often paired with Orion. If you can find the Hunter, you can find the Bull. To find Taurus look slightly above the shield/bow side of Orion like both constellations are facing off. Find the group of stars that make a fork shape to form the Bull’s horns. The brightest start in the constellation is Aldebaran also know as Alpha Tauri. The best time to spot Taurus is April through July.


If you are familiar with astrology, then you will be familiar with the Twins. Gemini gets its name because of the group of stars that look like two stick figures. Gemini can be found by looking for its brightest stars Pollux and Castor which are also the names of each of the twins. Although the easy time to find Gemini is in the Northern Hemisphere during December and January, it can still be found during the summer months.

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Starry night skies in #AlmostHeaven