April 18, 2024

Why To Go Stargazing On A Cruise Ship—And See The Northern Lights

If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship you’ll know that it can be as much about buffets and baffling lectures as it is about the landscapes you’re moving through.

But get out on deck at sunset and you’ll see things you’ve never seen before. Mesmerizing crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays before sunset. The pink Belt of Venus and Earth’s mighty shadow swallowing the sky. Perhaps even the elusive “green flash” as the sun disappears beneath the flattest horizon you’ve ever seen.

That’s even before it gets dark.

Why To Go Stargazing On A Cruise Ship

“The best reason to go stargazing on cruise ship is that you’re away from light pollution,” said Neill Sanders, an outreach astronomer and founder of Go Stargazing, a U.K.-based organization that promotes stargazing events, in an interview. “Even in the darkest spots on land there’s always some light pollution on the horizon.”

He also points out that if you sail south from the northern hemisphere a whole new world of stars opens up to you. “Sail south of the equator towards the southern hemisphere and you start to see the galactic center of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds in regions of the sky you just can’t see from home,” he said.

Being out on deck on a clear night picking out strange stars and constellations is hard to beat. “You can escape normal life by going out on deck at night and being out in the middle of the ocean, just you and the thousands of stars you can see,” said Sanders. Even watching a moonrise, or a crescent moon sinking into the ocean, can be a very special experience when at sea.

Laser-Guided Sky Tours

So delighted by views of the night sky at sea is Sanders that he recently pitched the idea of organized stargazing sessions to Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which will soon host him and hand-picked astronomers on 26 cruises from the U.K. (Liverpool, Newcastle, Dover, Southampton and Portsmouth) to the Arctic Circle close to Norway, Iceland, the Azores and the Canary Islands through 2024.

The itineraries include In Search of the Northern Lights at Christmas in December, Natural Wonders and Wildlife of the Azores and Madeira in April.

Go Stargazing is also running a prize draw for two of the northern lights cruises in March. “It’s great timing because solar activity is increasing, which makes 2024 perfect for a northern lights cruise,” said Sanders.

All cruises will include presentations about stargazing and laser-guided tours of the stars and constellations above. Some guests will be able to see meteor showers, moonrises and the northern lights (the season has just begun in the northern hemisphere) while a 1,338 lucky guests of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Bolette ship will the final people on the planet to see the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Stargazing at sea is hard to beat—now more than ever.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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