Dark skies over Costa Rica

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, March 19, 2018

Orion and surrounding stars from the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, shot by DJE, Canon 6D camera, 12mm lens at f/4, 30-second exposure at ISO 25,600.

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of 39 Astronomy Magazine readers to Costa Rica for our 2018 Southern Sky Star Party. What a wonderful trip it was. In conjunction with our travel partner, TravelQuest, and its leader Aram Kaprielian, we were able to see great treasures of the southern sky that can’t be viewed from the north. The Southern Cross, the Coal Sack, the Carina Nebula, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and deep-sky gems in Centaurus, Scorpius, and Sagittarius, held us transfixed. The group spent March 9–17, 2018, in the country, experiencing a brief in and out transport through San Jose before planting ourselves along the Gulf of Nicoya near the town of Puntarenas. Our resort had 25 rustic cabins and a central dining facility, a nice setup in the midst of a 1,000-acre plantation with much in the way of planted crops, horses, cattle, monkeys, a salt evaporation flat, sugar cane, mango trees, and all the exotic creatures you could imagine. Our hosts Jorge — our local guide — and TravelQuest’s Cody Carter did a magnificent job of managing the experience. In the end, our group spotted 88 species of birds! 

I highly recommend Costa Rica to the magazine’s readers. This trip will likely repeat next year, and, as my old friend Bart Bok used to say, “All the good stuff’s in the Southern Hemisphere.” That may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but not a big one. 

I enjoyed meeting many new folks, gave two talks, and we had great fun under the stars, pointing out all manner of deep-sky objects with laser pointers. 

The sad moments of the week of course came with the shocking news of Stephen Hawking’s demise. 

But we will carry on in Costa Rica, and look forward to seeing you for this great experience next year! 

Howler monkeys in one’s trees can be extraordinarily loud.

Saddling up.

A beautiful macaw.

Birds congregate in the lagoon.

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