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A Starry Night at an Observatory
Date 11-05-2018 14:48
A Starry Night at an Observatory

Mothers worldwide still sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars,” to put their children to sleep, but it is becoming indeed difficult to see night skies twinkling with innumerable stars these days. It takes considerable time and effort for us to see actual starlight today. A trip to an astronomical observatory is therefore filled with excitement, not only at the anticipation of observing stars and constellations but also the expectation of a romantic night out. Observatories at nighttime are indeed great for watching stars that are easily eclipsed in cities by the glaring lights of neon signs.

Yeongyang Firefly Astronomical Observatory: An Internationally Recognized Destination for Stargazing

Yeongyang Firefly Astronomical Observatory, which is located within the Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park, has been internationally certified as one of the special destinations particularly suited for stargazing. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has named this park area as one of the International Dark-Sky (IDS) Parks. The IDA has been designating these parks as areas meriting special efforts for the preservation of their starry views of night skies and ecological resources. There are approximately 30 IDS Parks around the world today, and Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park was the first to be named one in Asia three years ago.
The nighttime stargazing program, which lasts from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m., allows guests to observe the Moon, planets, and the galaxy via the telescope on site. The night sky seen from the observation room is indeed full of wonders. A curator tells interesting stories about constellations that guests can see with their own eyes. One of the interesting tidbits shared by the curator involves how one could arrive at the Moon in 170 years by driving at 100 km/hr. “That means three generations have to do nothing else but keep driving,” the curator quips. To visit the observatory, you must make a reservation on the park’s website in advance. It can get chilly at night up on a mountain, so make sure to bring a thick jacket with you.

- Address: 129, Banditburi-ro, Subi-myeon, Yeongyang, Gyeongsangbuk-do
- Tel. +82-54-680-5331–3
- Website: http://www.yyg.go.kr/np

Byeolmaro Observatory: Standing Atop a Starlit and Tranquil Plateau

Byeolmaro Observatory is situated atop Bongnaesan at 800 m above sea level. The name of this third oldest observatory in Korea means “a summit for stargazing.” The observatory consists of the main observation room, a secondary observation room, and a planetarium. The secondary observation room on the fourth floor provides views of the sunspots and red flames by day and the Moon, stars, and the planets by night. The main telescope, which is 800 mm in diameter, and the multiple auxiliary telescopes on site bring these celestial bodies right before the gazer’s eyes. The secondary observation room is also the highest observatory in Yeongwol, which also provides beautiful views of downtown Yeongwol and the natural landscape surrounding Donggang during the day.
The planetarium below the ground level, which projects virtual constellations on a dome-shaped screen that spans 8.3 m wide, and the virtual reality room on the third floor, which offers a chance to experience paragliding, are also must-enjoy features on site. The observatory can be reached from downtown Yeongwol by a 25-min or so car ride. Some of the roads lack street lamps, and wildlife can appear there at night, so it is safer to travel to Byeolmaro Observatory by car at night.

- Address: 397, Cheonmundae-gil, Yeongwol-eup, Yeongwol, Gangwon-do
- Tel. +82-33-372-8445
- Website: http://www.yao.or.kr

Anbandegi, Gangneung: A Starlit Pastoral Village amid Mountains

Anbandegi is the name of a tranquil village in Gangneung, which is situated amid mountains at 1,100 m above sea level. Although the official administrative name of the village is Daegi-ri, Koreans know it better as Anbandegi. Anban is the local dialect for a wooden panel with a dent in the middle upon which steamed rice is pounded into sticky rice cakes, while degi is another word in the local dialect, which means “flat land.” Visitors come to this village at night to gaze at stars and, if they get lucky, the Milky Way. Anbandegi, which is located atop a mountain and open on all sides, provides a perfect site for stargazing.
The village is also home to two observatories—Meonge Observatory and Ilchul Observatory. Located on hills, one to the south and the other to the north of the Daegi-ri Village Hall, both observatories also offer beautiful views of the surrounding idyllic landscapes, including power-generating windmills at a distance, the sea of Gangneung, and the endless rows of planted cabbages. The Big Dipper, the Polaris, and the W-shaped Cassiopeia appear on the sky by night. Make sure you are equipped with a thick jacket and a head lantern for perfect stargazing in Anbandegi.

- Address: 428, Anbandeok-gil, Wangsan-myeon, Gangneung, Gangwon-do
- Tel. 033-655-5119