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Torrey Pines State Beach Stargazing

By David Hail, co-founder of local date ideas website NearHere.com

Sipping hot cocoa or wine while lying on the beach, trying to pick out constellations and other heavenly bodies, is a romantic way to spend an evening. Unfortunately for us in the San Diego area, large populations along the coast put off so much light pollution that you canít see many stars from the beaches. Torrey Pines isnít the perfect beach for stargazing, but it is the darkest one we have available in San Diego County. On a clear night with no moon, you should be able to pick out the constellations, planets, and even a stray meteor or two. Itís also a secluded, scenic beach with impressive cliffs and nice views of La Jollaís lights down south.

The best viewing begins about an hour after sunset, when twilight has faded. If you want to stretch the night out a bit, show up early for a sunset picnic and then, while twilight is winding down, pack up the car and walk south to find a good spot. Be warned though, parking will probably be much more difficult at sunset. For those that are just stargazing, remember that it will be dark, so any snacks or drinks you bring along should be uncomplicated. Also, youíll just be laying there and the beach can get windy, be sure to bring clothes that are warm enough for the conditions. Donít forget a blanket to sit on or flashlights, and it would probably be a good idea to pick up a beginnerís book on the constellations at your local library. Some of the best books for casual watchers are in the children's section.

I've read that binoculars are a good option for casual stargazers but in my experience, besides the moon and Pleiades, you just end up seeing big white dots instead of small white dots. You might want to throw a pair in the backpack, but they're not essential. For more information about what you can see:

Phase of the Moon
Star Chart (very useful)
The Constellations and their Histories
How to see the Constellations
Star Chart Guide
Meteor Showers
Planets in the Sky

Parking on North Torrey Pines Road is only allowed until 11pm and the beach doesnít permit dogs. Youíll want to set up about Ĺ mile south of the parking area or so, but keep walking until you find the right spot. The beach is fairly wide, so the tides shouldnít be much of an issue, but a super high tide may force you up against the cliffs and thatís a definite no-no. Though highly unlikely, every few years someone does get hit and injured by falling debris because theyíre walking too close to the cliffs--please stay back.

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